3:9 “All who have been born out of God are not committing sin, because His seed is remaining in him and he is not able to be sinning because he has been given birth out of God.”
Note the the chiasm here:
…..a) All who have been born of God
……….b) do not commit sin
……………c) for his seed remains in him
……….b) and he cannot sin
…..a) because he has been born of God
The center line (c) is the focus of the chiasm, and it introduces a new development in John’s line of thought, the “seed/semen/offspring” (Pershbacher). The Christian is incompatible with sin because not only were we born out of God in the past, but because something of God remains in us all our life.
Now this “birth” is mentioned twice in this verse, both times in the Perfect, Passive, Indicative form. “The Perfect marks not only the single act but the continuous presence of its efficacy” (Westcott 107). the Passive voice tells us that we were not active in this birth; it is entirely God’s doing to make us “born again,” not the result of our decisions and actions.
So, what is this “seed” that remains in us? John doesn’t make it clear in this verse, although, from the context of the verse, it might be inferred that it is the familial likeness that comes from being a child of God. Cotton, Westcott, Lenski, and Clark (101) state that this “seed” is the word–Scripture. James 1:18, I Peter 1:23, and Luke 3:11 all refer to the word of God as “seed.”
The result is that we do not, we CAN not sin! “The ideas of divine sonship and sin are mutually exclusive. As long as the relationship with God is real [born of God] sinful acts are but accidents” (Westcott 108). This “sinning” is “a state rather than an action. The apostle affirms that a Christian can never be a sinner. He will start to be one, will take the first step by committing this or that sin, but he stops short of the condition of being a sinner.
To be ‘in Christ’ is not to be at once perfect, but whenever such a one disgraces himself, his actions never permanently remove him from that mystical union which is unbreakable” (Hanna 435). “Purpose and inclination in one direction are incompatable with purpose and inclination in the contrary direction” (WGT Shedd).
Which direction is the direction of your life? If you have been born out of God, you will be heading in the same direction as our God did–taking away and destroying sin, practicing righteousness, and shunning sin.
3:10 “By this is the children of God and the children of the devil knowable: everyone who isn’t doing righteousness is not out of God, neither is the one who is not loving his brother.”
By these traits of eschewing sin, it will be made obvious whose children we are–God’s or the devil’s. This verse literally reads, “In this, clear is the children of God and the children of the devil…” For what it’s worth, the verb “is” is singular, matching the singular subject “this.”
I can’t find any way to accurately translate this phrase into English technically, although the meaning in all the English translations comes through well enough. We can and should discern people’s spiritual status by observing their life patterns, whether they are characterized by righteousness or sin, love or hate, Christ-likeness or likeness to the devil.
The word for that discernment, translated “obvious” (NASV), “know” (NIV), and “manifest” (KJV), is from the same word translated “revealed” in relation to Christ earlier. Pershbacher adds “apparent, clear, conspicuous, well-known.” Some well-meaning people say that we should not judge each other, but here God’s own word instructs us in judging the spiritual fatherhood of people!
Who is YOUR father–God, or the devil?
“The spiritual affinities of men are shewn by two patent signs, righteousness and love, and these signs correspond to two archetypal patterns, the Gospel, that is the life of Christ (v.11), and the history of Cain (v.12)” (Westcott 108).
By Nate Wilson.