Fellowship with God Versus the Problem with Sin

The entire purpose of John’s letter is to strengthen the fellowship of the believer. He gives clear instruction on what it takes to have a strong fellowship with the Lord and with each other. It must be understood that it is possible to have the security of salvation while at the same time be out of fellowship with God. Many Christians find themselves in such a state. They are truly born again but their life does not reflect who they are. They are caught up in the things of the world and their sin has caused a rift in their relationship with God. Thus far in 1 John, we have seen that in order to be in right fellowship with God and with each other, we must confess our sins daily, live in love, be on guard against the spirit of anti-Christ, abide in Christ, and live in hope. John now takes his teaching to another level as he addresses the sin problem in the life of the believer and how it affects the believer’s fellowship with God. The Teachers Commentary says the following:

“John was writing to ordinary people like you and me who became Christians, looked forward to a new kind of life, then perhaps were crushed to discover that everything wasn’t different after all. The promised freedom from old habits and sins didn’t come. Experiences like these are common, because the Christian life involves growth. We are born again into a new world through faith in Christ. Yet the old kosmos that we knew so well has patterned our personalities. The gift of new life does not include spiritual amnesia, or wipe away old thought patterns, emotions, and responses. All these are still there; still deeply ingrained. The old will be replaced, but gradually—through growth and grace. It is the “gradually” that so troubles us. We want to be rid of the old immediately. We want to be all new, now. When we stumble and fall and then fall again, it’s only natural to wonder if we’ve made a mistake about our relationship with God. Perhaps we are not born again. Perhaps our failures and stumbling into sin indicate that we only thought we believed! John wrote to release us from this torment. If you want to be sure you know Jesus, first look within. If you are responsive, even in a stumbling way—if you find love in your heart—you can be confident.”[1]

If you have a ‘want to’ within you to please God. If you have a desire to live a life that is pleasing to God. If you have a love for God and for other believers in your heart, then you can be confident that your salvation is real. Though you may struggle with sin, if the love of God is in your heart and you do have a genuine desire to please Him and a disdain for your personal sin, then you can be confident of your salvation. However, though we may have the confidence and assurance of our salvation due to what we know to be true on the inside, the struggle with sin is still very real. John makes some very strong statements in verses 6-10 of chapter 3. These statements are meant not to cause doubt concerning our salvation, but to show the seriousness of sin in the life of the believer and what it can do.

                What sin is. Verse 4 says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”[2] John makes it very clear that sin is the transgression of the law. It is disobedience to the will of God. Sin is lawlessness or defiance against God. Sin is not just bad behavior. Sin comes from within. It comes from the heart of man. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Sin is basically a matter of the will. For us to assert our will against God’s will is rebellion, and rebellion is the root of sin. It is not simply that sin reveals itself in lawless behavior, but that the very essence of sin is lawlessness. No matter what his outward action may be, a sinner’s inward attitude is one of rebellion.”[3] We have all heard the story of the young child whose dad told her to sit down. She repeatedly disobeyed and continued to stand in defiance. Ultimately, the dad told his daughter that if she don’t sit down she will be punished. The little girl reluctantly sat down and then said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside.” Such an attitude is the essence of sin. God has given us a book called the Bible. This book reveals to us all that God wants us to know about Himself, His will, and how He wants us to live. Disobedience and defiance to the Word of God is sin.

                The solution to our sin problem. In verse 5 we see that the solution to our sin problem is Jesus. “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”[4] Jesus is the one who was manifested to take away our sins. He is the perfect sinless lamb of God who laid down His life on the cross to pay the price for our sin. You cannot save yourself from the penalty of sin. Only Jesus can remove the penalty of sin from your life. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The Incarnation brought into the world the One who is totally sinless and who had as an objective the removal of sin from the lives of His own.”[5] The penalty of sin is eternal separation from God. Apart from Christ we would be eternally lost in our sin with no hope of reconciliation with God. Thanks be to God for giving us His Son so that our sin can be removed, and we can have fellowship with God!

                Habitual sin does not exist in the life of a true believer. In verses 6-10, John makes some very strong statements regarding sin. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.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. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”[6] These statements by John on the surface seems to suggest that a true believer in Christ will be sinless. However, by comparing scripture with scripture and examining the grammatical structure of John’s statements, we find that his statements are a reference to habitual sin. John is not saying that a believer will never sin. The point he is making is that those who habitually continue in sin with no repentance is not a true believer. Wiersbe says, “A person who deliberately and habitually sins is proving that he does not know Christ and therefore cannot be abiding in Him.”[7] When a true believer sins, he or she will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and will confess the sin and repent of the sin. If you are able to go on sinning without any conviction, guilt, or remorse; then you are not a child of God. A believer may sin, however, a true believer will never live a lifestyle of sin. Those who are living a lifestyle of sin are not truly saved. The Faithlife Study Bible says, “It seems that one of John’s primary concerns is addressing false teaching that suggests sinning is acceptable because of Christ’s work—a position he refutes in this passage. Engaging in sin inhibits Christ’s work and aligns a person with the devil’s will rather than the will of Christ, making them one (at least for that time) with the devil and his work. Like Paul, John believes that people who come to faith should live in freedom from sin rather than align themselves with it (Rom 6:1–7).”[8]

                Just as sin separates the unbeliever from God, so also does sin cause a separation of the believer from God. The fellowship of the believer with God is broken when sin is present. If you find yourself engaged in sinful behaviors and attitudes, there is one of two things that needs to be consider. (1) You are a believer and your fellowship with God is broken or (2) You are not a believer at all. If you are a believer, you cannot continue in your sin. There will be conviction and guilt and you will get things right with God so that you can have your fellowship restored with Him. If you continue in sin with no repentance, then you are an unbeliever and you need to trust in Christ for your salvation.

[1] Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1054). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 3:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 505). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 3:5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] Walvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 894). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 3:6–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 505). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Jn 3:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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