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Monday, February 11, 2019


Exegesis is the careful examination and interpretation of a text. What does it say? What does it mean? Eisegesis is reading a meaning into a text; not good. So we should be careful in Scripture to find out what it means rather than what we want it to mean. Usually it's pretty straightforward, but not always. "No man comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6) is pretty clear and we should stand on that. Some others aren't as clear.

One, however, that appears to be quite clear ends up not being as clear as we might think. There are a couple of ways to take it. What we tend to do, however, is discard it rather than take it either of the ways you might read it. I wonder why that is.
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)
Pretty clear at first reading, but if you examine the text and context it gets less so. It looks like it is saying that the one who is born of God cannot sin. Well, okay, but ... is that so? The first tendency here is eisegesis. "Hey, I don't know anyone who doesn't sin, so it can't mean that." Let's not go there. But in the context of 1 John we read, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). So, denying that we do sin is a mistake. Further, John goes on to write, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). Apparently, then, John does not believe that Christians cannot sin at all. Some still hold to that. It's termed "perfectionism" or "sinless perfection." It comes largely from 1 John 3:9 and you can even see why, but when the context is examined, that can't be the case. We all sin.

So what else can it mean? Well, the verb in that text where it says "No one who is born of God sins" is in an ongoing, present tense. That's why the King James translates it to what I just wrote but more modern versions translate it to "practices sin" -- an ongoing, present tense. Well, now, that changes it a bit. If we take 1 John 1:8-2:2 into account -- we do sin -- then this might mean that we sin, but we can't make an "ongoing, present tense" of it. We can't practice it. We do sin, but we don't like it and we repent (change directions) and we intend to go away from it. We don't defend it or indulge it or embrace it. We don't want to sin. Now, that makes sense taking into account the text (ongoing, present tense) and the context (1 John 1:8-2:2) and the language -- "he cannot sin, because he is born of God." So maybe that's the correct exegesis.

Why is it, then, that we tend not to go with that? I mean, sure, most of us won't go with the "sinless perfection" thing, but the Bible doesn't really support it, so we shouldn't. So why don't we go with the idea that one who is born of God actually lacks the ability ("cannot") to continue in sin without remorse and repentance? I know we do because when I point the text out to believers (especially when we're talking about a fellow believer who appears to be immersed in unrepentant sin) they deny that's what it means.

What do we do with stuff like this? "No, it doesn't mean that. Yes, it appears to mean that. But ... we're going to ignore it." How can we, as followers of Christ (the Word of God) ignore the Word of God? In fact, doing that as a practice would be making a practice of sin, wouldn't it? I'm confused.


Bob said...

To add to the confusion; Romans ch: 7: 15. Paul states; it is not I, but sin that is in me.
he makes this statement twice adding emphasis. the duality of the statement highlights two distinct entities. the flesh that wars against the Spirit. so who is this "I" that Paul says does not sin? we know that when we leave this earth suit, the flesh will die, what is left is the child of God, Glorified, and free from the presence of sin. so is Paul referring to this his person as tho in the Glorified form? if there be two identities, sin and the child of God, then it stands to reason that the child of God, because he shares in a divine nature does not sin. ok i think i am reaching beyond my grasp on this one...

Bob said...

the Teacher in our Sunday school class made a case that "God does remove names from the book of life". the difficulty arises when the mode of Doctrine development is derived from inferences, and implications. the teacher went from a general inference to a specific position. in psalms : Oh lord remove the names of the wicked from thy book,,, see God removes names from the book of life. however i cannot find an explicit statement that God removes names of born again believers, from the book of life. the implicit method creates a whole host of problems.

Craig said...


Your first comment is an interesting thought. It seems clear that we are positionally righteous through Christ's death and resurrection, so that when we stand before the judgement of God, Christ's righteousness will be ours. However, practically, we still sin. I think you might be on to something, but I'm not sure it's completely within our grasp to understand.

I'm assuming (based on numerous texts) that there is a "book" of those who are Christ's and another "book" that might be what Psalms is referring to. There is just too much evidence that one someone's name is in the "book of life" that it's there from eternity past through eternity future.

Bob said...

Because God gave the command to obey the Law. therefore; i can conclude that i am capable of obeying the law, right?
31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a grave sin; they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book You have written.”
Moses said it, so it must be possible...
How many times Has God made statements that IMPLY we can perform?
it is the "implication" that is the Red Herring, it gets us off track.
if your eye causes you to sin, Pluck it out.... i have no faith because i still have both eyes.

Craig said...

I’m not sure that means that we can obey perfectly, but we certainly can obey to some degree.

I think the Moses thing is that’s he’s offering himself as a sacrifice to save the rest of the Hebrews. Not sure it’s the same thing.