1 John 5:18-20 “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
This passage from 1 John 5 is a kind of epilogue to John’s epistle. It is often overlooked by sermonizers, writers, and teachers. Yet these final verses contain a truth so important, so monumental that if we grasp its meaning it will explain much of what we need to know to get along in the world as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here we find the foundation for how we should approach every day as disciples of Jesus in a hostile world, and how we can begin to overcome sin.
The passage opens with a positive statement of our position as disciples: “We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them.” Three key understandings are found in the first verse of this passage.
1. We know that no one who is born of God sins. The most literal rendering of the Greek here is this: those who are born out of God do not continue in the habit or practice of sinning. Sin is an affront to our God. Choosing to sin violates our union with Him, and to choose to abide in or continue in sin means we cannot continue to abide in God. One or the other must dominate the life of the disciple.
2. He who was born of God keeps him. The one born of God has protection – Jesus by His Holy Spirit protects us from sin. That is a key part of His work in us, and He does this by various means – warnings, conviction, instruction, and explaining truth are a few. While it is the Spirit’s work to protect us, it is our role to cooperate with the Spirit in avoiding sin.
3. The evil one does not touch him. Many have struggled with this statement because sin is so difficult to be freed from in daily living. It seems that the evil one is constantly harassing us. It seems that way because he is. Yet our God prevents him from physically and spiritually destroying us – this is what is meant by “The evil one does not touch him.”
If this is true, then why is the struggle with sin so difficult so much of the time? There are several reasons for this, but for this post we will focus on the key reason found in the next part of the passage: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” In unpacking this important statement we will begin to see why our struggle with sin is so pervasive in our living. We will not get to all of it in this post, so look for the next post for more.
“We know that we are of God….” Some translations include here the idea of our being “children of God.” Yet in this translation, the New American Standard, the original Greek enjoys a more literal translation. The original Greek is best read as, “we are certain that we are out of God.” If we are true disciples who are fully committed to our God, we can be quite certain that our very life comes not from ourselves but comes to us out of God Himself. This is what it means to be “begotten” of God.
Jesus is the only begotten and divine Son of God. His existence is derived from God’s existence. Jesus is alive in every committed disciple by His Holy Spirit. Thus, true disciples are also begotten of God, or born out of Him and have within them the very life of the begotten of God.
New life in Christ is not an upgraded human life, made better by our efforts in association with the Holy Spirit. It is a complete life replacement, the life of the only begotten of God made operational instead of our old life. Our lives are no longer of this world or derived out of it; we are no longer simply members of the human race. Now we are humans born out of our God, and we carry in us a new, divine life by virtue of our union with our God.
This is important for us to grasp, for just as the life of God is not of this world, so our lives are not of this world. We have been bought with a price and are now intended to live only the life of Christ in place of our own.
Here is the reason why we are to continue in sin no longer – we no longer possess our own life. Our life is now a life begotten of God that is continually emanating from Him into us and through us. To continue in sin is to join the life of our God to our sinning. Nothing could be more awkwardly inappropriate, or more morally awful. Here is the power to sin no more – we have the life of Christ in us in place of our own. It is our God’s plan to set us free from the ravages of sin by His very life in us.
Next post: The Whole World