Monday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 John 3:4

Continuing in Sin

In this little passage, it is necessary to offer a little Greek lesson.  Don’t worry.  What I’m about to explain to you is really not that difficult to understand, though it may sound strange.  It concerns how the ancient Greeks (the language of the New Testament) understood their verbs.  For English speakers, the tense of a verb refers to past, present, or future, and that does play a role in Greek in the indicative mood.  But to the ancient Greeks, tense referred primarily to aspect or kind of action; that is, a present tense verb refers only secondarily to the present time (which is strange to us).  What the present tense verb in the New Testament chiefly refers to is continuous, ongoing action.

In this passage, the verb for “commits” is in the present tense, meaning that it could just as easily be translated, “keeps on committing.”  The ESV has, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning.”  “Makes a practice” is not literally in the passage, but it gives the true meaning of it.  The KJV (which I genuinely love) says, “Whoever committeth sin,” but that doesn’t do justice to the meaning of the Greek verb ποιων (a present participle meaning, “keeps on doing”). 

So, my point is to say that verse four is to be understood as the ESV renders it: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning,” that is, continues to do so without conviction and without care.  We must understand that our Father has transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son and sin no longer reigns over us.  Granted, we all have our besetting sins, but we are to grow in grace such that one day we slough these off as well.  No one will ever be sinless in this life (1:8), but the believer is to live a daily repentance in which we war against the flesh, not easily give in to it.  There are no excuses; we have been set free from the slavery of sin (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:1-14).

And what is sin?  John’s definition nails it: “Sin is lawlessness.”  God has set down how we are supposed to live.  Sin is our saying, “No thank you.”  Granted, Paul teaches us that the purpose of the law is to show us how far we come short so that we may turn to Christ (Galatians 3:19-29).  Through Christ we have been freed from the law to live according to the Spirit.  But if we continue in sin, we are not living under the dominion of the Spirit but of the flesh and the law.  I say all this to comfort you.  The passage is telling you not to continue in sin; furthermore, you don’t have to.  You have been set free from sin.  Rejoice and abide in him and in the freedom he provides.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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