What is so hard when you first read the verses which are the subject of this question is that you know you still sin after you get saved. Paul, one of the best Christians, by far, said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not,” [Rom 7:18]. In that context he even spoke of “sin that dwelleth in me,” [Rom 7:20]. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” [1 Jn 1:8]. Yet, the text says that if you are born of God you won’t sin for, “whosoever abideth in him sinneth not,” [1 Jn 3:6]. That’s tough to understand.
So, Bible teachers go through all kinds of effort to make the verses say something they don’t say in order to reconcile the apparent problem. One group says, “If you are truly saved, you won’t sin anymore. It is necessary, therefore, after you get saved to live a perfectly sinless life.” They believe in sinless perfection. Hence, they go about totally deceived into believing that their sins aren’t really sins anymore. Another group says, “On no, you will sin after you get saved. But if you are really saved you won’t continue in habitual sin. If you do that then you aren’t really saved.” To make the verses say this, they retranslate the words to make them fit what they believe. That’s dangerous because that’s not what the verses say.
We have to remember that the context here deals with the sons of God [1 Jn 3:1-2]. We are the sons of God by the new birth [Jn 1:12]. At the new birth, our spirits were born again, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” [Jn 3:6]. By virtue of the new birth we abide in him [1 Jn 3:6]. We are “in” Christ [Eph 5:30] and, therefore, we are seated with him in heavenly places, [Eph 2:6]. We have been spiritually circumcised so that “the body of the sins of the flesh” has been spiritually cut away from our soul and spirit [Col2:11]. Therefore, in our souls and spirits which are born again, we cannot commit sin because they are born of God.
However, when we were born again, born of the Spirit [Jn 3:6], our flesh was not born again. Therefore, sin still dwells in our flesh, like Paul said, and we still sin, like John said. Sin will not be totally eradicated from our bodies until “he shall appear” and “we shall be like him,” [1 Jn 3:2]. Thus, right now we can be sinless in our souls and yet still commit sin in our bodies, at the same time. Only after the rapture, when our bodies come up glorified [Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:43] will our bodies finally be sinless.
In the meantime, 1 Jn 3:3, says that when we have this hope in us, the hope that we shall be like him when he appears, then we will purify ourselves. He says, “every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” We can actually do righteousness “even as he is righteous,” [1 Jn 3:7] since we have his true righteousness abiding in us. True righteousness only comes from Jesus Christ through the new birth [Rom 10:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Cor 1:30]. Thus, only those born of God are in a position to yield to the work of God within them, to manifest true righteousness, to let not sin rule in their mortal bodies [Rom 6:12-14], and to manifest that they are the children of God [1 Jn 3:10].
Those who are not born of God, on the other hand, will manifest the works of the devil because they are children of the devil [1 Jn 3:10]. Like the Pharisees, they may appear righteous outwardly [Matt 23:27], but in reality they are just children of the devil [Jn 8:44]. Cain appeared righteous outwardly with his sacrifice [Gen 4:3] but in truth he was a child of that wicked one [1 Jn 3:12]. And so, rather than love his brother, which a man born of God would do, he killed him instead, because his deeds were evil. And just like Cain, the outwardly righteous Pharisees manifested their true nature as children of the devil when they crucified Jesus Christ.
Taking this passage a little deeper, doctrinally, during the tribulation, the children of God [those who are born again in the tribulation] are going to be able to determine the true believers from those who are not by their deeds of righteousness [according to the commandments, Rev 14:12], their sinlessness [keeping from idolatry, primarily, Rev 13:15, 1 Jn 5:21, but also Rev 9:20-21], and their love of the brethren [1 Jn 3:10-11]. The children of the devil won’t be doing the three preceding things.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder