I John 2:28–3:10. Preparing For Our Finals.

Key Notes: Words for sin. Thinking about sin. How not to practice sin.

As we found last week, we know all things, but need repetition because of new applications of truth, variable leaders, growing general knowledge, and weak memories. In this passage, John talks about Jesus' Second Coming and how we should prepare for it.

2:28–3:4 This continuous idea overlaps the chapter break. [Chapter and verse divisions are not inspired.] We abide in Him so that when He comes we may not be at a distance (apostate, standing off), lest we be embarrassed and shrink away.
We are children of God! Amazing. And we will be like Him at His Appearance. Our preparation is the habit of purifying ourselves into His likeness. II Cor.3:18

The impurity we seek to eliminate is sin. SIN IS LAWLESSNESS. This is our best definition of Sin. The Greek words in this sentence (3:4) say literally  "Falling short of the mark is lawlessness". The left side of the equation is a word taken from archery and implies the inability of the archer either to pull the bow fully, or to aim on target. The right side of the equation--"no law"--is simple rebellion. How do we equate weakness, inability to meet God's standard, with rebellion? Inability and rebellion go hand in hand. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom.8:8). They that are in the flesh don't try to, don't want to, or try their own way to....

There are a few sin-words in Greek suggesting inability in Scripture:

falling short of the mark Rom.3:23
failure to hear Heb.2:2
a mistake in judgment Eph.2:5
singing out of tune Lev.5:15; LXX
ignorance Eph.4:18.

There are twice as many Greek sin-words suggesting rebellion:

ungodliness Rom.4:5
transgression Rom.4:15
dereliction of duty I Cor.6:7
injustice Rom.2:8
unbelief Heb.3:19
disobedience Rom.1:30
falling away II Thes.2:3
craving ICor.10:6
enmity Gal.5:20
malice Eph.4:31
depravity Matt.22:18
scandal Matt.18:7
division Gal.5:20.
This list omits words for specific sins such as hate, murder, stealing, adultery, cursing, etc.

3:5–10 Jesus came the first time to take away sins; He had no sin. Those who abide in Him are like Him; they are not in sin.

John sets up three paired and contrasting statements to make this point.

A. No one who abides in Him sins.
A' No one who sins has either seen Him or known Him.

B. He who does right is righteous as He is righteous.
B' He who commits sin is of the Devil, sinning from the beginning. The Son of God came to destroy the works of the Devil.

C. No one born of God commits sin, God's seed abides in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
C' Whoever does not do right is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

In I Jn.1:6–2:2 the same author seems to say the opposite.
"If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie...."(1:6)
"If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1:8)
"If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar..." (1:10)

The solution to this seeming contradiction is that 3:5–10 uses the present tense, indicating continuing action. The passage is interpreted as "No one who abides in Him makes a practice of sin". "No one born of God keeps on committing sin".

We are no sinless but we have reversed our direction 180 degrees (been converted) from focus on Self to love for God. I used to focus on Me; now I focus on Him. We don't make a practice of sinning. We are not the same as we used to be: we were pigs and have been made lambs.

John says:
1. Sin is very serious. It is lawlessness.
2. Tolerating sin contradicts the reason for Christ's Coming. He appeared to take away sin.
3. There was no sin in Him.
4. The standard of righteous is doing right.
5. Sin is of the devil.
6. The child of God cannot continue in sin because God's seed  abides in him.
7. The acid test is whether we love our brother.

•In our minds Sin means

greed,
or weakness,
or sex,
selfishness,
illusion,
losing face in the community
or our normal behavior.

•We try countering sin by denying it, ignoring it, repressing it (cold showers), trying to be distracted from it (workaholic), getting educated, doing penance, claiming special exemption, giving in to it, or in desperation, committing suicide.

Christians may well feel defeated at this point. However, a pastor observed that one of the triumphs of our Faith is our apparent defeat. Any spiritual lapse of a Christian is trumpeted by our critics as proof that Christianity is a fraud. We are held to a very high standard, and a conspicuous failure is news!

John poses the sin question as a test. He does not tell us how not to practice sin.
The answer to that question comes from Paul:

Rom. 6:2 How can we who died to sin still live in it?
6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might no long be enslaved to sin.
6;11 So you also must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
6:11 Do not yield your members (body-parts) to sin as instruments (tools) of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
6:17 ...you who were once slaves of sin...having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

May God help us to live in victory over sin.