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Two Families - Two Fathers

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Two Families - Two Fathers

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10, ESV)

1. Before a person can practice righteousness, that person must be a member of the family of God. If they are not in the family then they can imitate but cannot duplicate a true believers ability to “walk in righteousness.”

2. Because of the fall, mankind has defaulted to being “children of the devil” from birth and until they are born of God they cannot walk in righteousness as defined by the Bible. As the result of inborn corruption, the natural man is totally unable to do anything spiritually good. Which means that the sinner is so spiritually bankrupt that he can not and will not do anything pertaining to his own salvation.

3. As the result of Adam’s transgression, men are born in sin and by nature are spiritually dead; Therefore, if they are to become God’s children and enter His kingdom, they must be born anew of the spirit. (Gen 2:16-17; Rom 5:12; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13; Ps 51:5, 58:3; Jn 3:5-7; cf. Jn 1:12-13)

4. As the result of the fall , men are blind and deaf to spiritual truth. Their minds are darkened by sin; their hearts are corrupt and evil. (Gen 6:5, 8:21; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Mk 7:21-23; Jn 3:19; Rom 8:7-9;1 Cor 2:14;Eph 4:17-19, 5:8; Titus 1:15)

5. Before sinners are born into God’s kingdom through the regenerating power of the Spirit, they are children of the devil and under his control; they are slaves to sin. (Jn 8:44; Eph 2:1-2; 2 Tim 2:25-26; 1 Jn 3:10, 5:19; Jn 8:34; Rom 6:20; Titus 3:3)

6. The reign of sin is universal; all men are under its power. Consequently, none is righteous-not even one! (2 Chr 6:36; Job 15:14-16; Ps 130:3, 143:2; Pro 20:9; Ecc 7:20, 29; Isa 53:6, 64:6; Rom 3:9-12; James 3:2,8; 1 Jn 1:8, 10)

7. Men left in their dead state are unable of themselves to repent, to believe the gospel, or to come to Christ. They have no power within themselves to change their nature or to prepare themselves for salvation. (Job 14:4; Jer 13:23; Matt 7:16-18, 12:33; Jn 6:44, 6:65; Rom 11:35-36; 1 Cor 2:14, 4:7; 2 Cor 3:5)

7 Different views of sin

7.1 The first view restricts the “sin” in these passages to particularly heinous sins—murder and the like. (In Catholic theology the distinction is expressed as that between mortal and venial sins.) However, Christians do on occasion commit heinous sins and the Bible’s evaluation of sins such as murder are not necessarily more evil than sins of the spirit such as pride, of which all are guilty.

7.2 A second view is that what is sin in an unbeliever is not so regarded by God in the life of a believer. But this is simply not true. Sin is sin, wherever it is found. Moreover, it is probably the development of this precise double standard by the Gnostics that John is opposing.

7.3 Some have distinguished between the old nature and the new nature in a believer, arguing that the new nature cannot sin because it is from God. This is true in a sense and may even be supported by statements such as “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6), drawn from the Gospel. But it is dangerous, for it can easily suggest that the individual is not responsible for the sins of the old nature or that he need not fight against them. John is not making any such distinction here. Indeed, he is calling for the individual Christian to turn from sin to righteousness; he is not calling upon the Christian to allow one nature rather than the other to dominate him.

7.4 A more recent and quite widespread interpretation of these verses is that John is here speaking of an ideal. But if this is so, the question must then be asked, “Did he expect Christians to attain the ideal in his life?” If he did, we have not escaped the problem; we have only changed its contours. On the other hand, if he did not, then his entire moral test becomes meaningless.

7.5 There is a qualified form of the idea of an ideal that is characteristic of the holiness movement. It is the view that John is indeed stating an ideal but that it is an attainable ideal to the extent that the Christian truly “lives” in Christ (v. 6). Here Stott’s reply is incisive. He notes that, while this is a possible interpretation of verse 6 (in which the Christian clearly has an obligation to abide in Christ), nevertheless it is obviously inadequate as an interpretation of verse 9 (in which all Christians, rather than just some, are included). The only way around this latter difficulty is to suggest that one can be born of God and be sinless, then, as a result of sin, cease to be born; in other words, to be born and unborn repeatedly. But this is contrary to John’s teaching and runs against his entire emphasis on the Christian’s need to be sure of his salvation. The Christian could hardly be sure of his salvation if each sin he committed alienated him from God’s family.

7.6 The sixth view is that the sin which the Christian cannot do is willful or deliberate sin. But this is only a variation of the first interpretation and is disproved by the acknowledged conduct of all too many Christians. We do sin willfully and deliberately. Consequently, we should not be under any illusions regarding our need to confess our sin and seek cleansing.

7.7 The last and only adequate interpretation of these verses is that the sin which a Christian cannot commit is lasting or habitual. Here the interpreter is assisted by the tenses of the Greek verbs, all of which are present tense. John uses the present tense three times to indicate, not a particular sin once committed, but rather a continuance in sin over an indefinite period. Each phrase indicates this. In verse 6 he says that “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning,” that is, “continues in sin indefinitely.” In verse 9 he says that “no one who is born of God will continue to sin.” In English this distinction seems somewhat superficial and even unjustified, but it is not so in the Greek language, in which John wrote. In Greek John is simply saying that although a Christian may sin, and in fact often does sin, it is nevertheless impossible for him to go on persisting in sin indefinitely. Were this not so, righteousness could not be considered a true test of whether or not one is truly a child of God.*

*James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John : An Expositional Commentary, Originally Published: Grand Rapids : Zondervan, c1979. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004), 87.

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