No one who abides in him sins.1 John 3:6a RSV
John puts it plainly:
No one who abides in him sins. Or, to use the interchangeable terms for sin that he has just given us,
No one who lives in him lives lawlessly. This is the good news.
Perhaps some will say,
Wait a minute! Isn't this a contradiction? In the first chapter, verse 8, John says, 'If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us' (John 1:8). And now in chapter 3 he says, 'No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.' How is this? And isn't it even more positively put in verse 9 of chapter 3, 'No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God (John 3:9)? Surely this is a bit of a problem. Admittedly, we have come to one of the most difficult passages of Scripture. Yet it is a very important one, and it is not a contradiction. The man who writes this is no fool; John is an intelligent person. He does not say on one page something that is contradicted on another page. He is an inspired apostle, and he writes with wisdom, intelligence, and understanding.
The problem is really settled by the tense of the verb the apostle employs here,
No one who abides in him sins. He uses the present continuous tense for the word sins, to mean
no one who abides in him keeps on sinning. If John had wanted to refer to a single act of sin, he would have said, without any question,
No one who abides in him can commit even one single act of sin. But he did not say that. He used instead this continuous tense, and to note this will help us a great deal in understanding the passage. So he is saying,
Anyone who abides in Christ does not go on living in sin.
But now we must not miss the trees because we are so intent upon the wood. How do you avoid living lawlessly? How does one come to this place of not living sinfully? Well, as he puts it, it is all in this one word: abides.
No one who abides in him sins. The key is abiding. We have already seen that the relationship of believers to Jesus Christ involves them in two aspects. Abiding in Christ is an advance on simply being
in Christ. Our Lord Himself spoke of these two aspects of a disciple's relationship to Him. He described them by these words:
You are in me, and I am in you (John 14:20b). Those two aspects are very important.
You are in me is to be in Christ. It is to believe, to receive Jesus Christ. It is to be joined in a union with Him that results in new birth. It is to act upon His invitation to come into your life. When you do, you are
You are in me—that is the first union.
But what frees us from sin's reign is the second relationship:
I am in you, in which we experience by an attitude of faith Christ in us, as He makes His home in our hearts. We allow Him to live through us. We expect Him to do so in every moment of our experience. It is this that is called abiding, and it is this that results in freeing us from the bondage and power of sin so that we can live godly lives.
Thank You, Lord, that this is the continuing experience of those who come into relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, who offers Himself to me for this very purpose. Make me a living example of this revolutionary exchange:you in me and I in you.
Christ's righteousness literally and radically revolutionizes lives. The power of His indwelling Presence is life-changing. Have we in faith accepted the abiding Truth?