1 John


Argument Proper

vii] Sin is of the Evil One


It is right living, particularly brotherly love, which sets the children of God apart from the children of the evil one.


i] Context: See 3:1-6.


iii] Background: See 1:1-5.


iii] Structure: Sin is of the Evil One:

God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love

Argument #6, v1-10:

Confidence in the family of God.

A statement about the nature / character of God as Father, v1-3.

The necessity to renounce sin, v4-10:

no one can abide in Christ and also live in lawlessness, v4-6;

victory through the indwelling Christ, v7-10.


Verse 10 serves both as a summary of the argument carried in v4-9, but also transitions to the next passage, a summons to love, a summons to live the good news.


iv] Interpretation:

A righteous person will tend toward righteous living. Such a person, in a relationship with God, "born of God", will not easily live a life in defiance of God's will. On the other hand, a person who lives in defiance to God's will, who does not do what is right, is a person more aligned to the Devil than the living God. "Here we have a clear indication as to who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil", Phillips, v10a. A person who who does not strive to lead a good life, who is devoid of love toward their brothers and sisters in the Lord, is not a child of God.


The incongruity of John's demand for sinless perfection: John's stark duality between, on the one hand, the children of God / the righteous, those who do what is right / do not sin, and on the other hand, the children of the devil / the unrighteous, those who do not do what is right / do sin, has always troubled commentators. The only viable solution is to understand John's words in the terms of orientation. Compassion is to be found in even the most corrupt person, just as corruption is to be found in even the most compassionate person. The believer is orientated toward living in a way that is honouring to Christ. Indwelt with the renewing power of the Spirit of Christ, we are compelled to love as Christ loves, albeit certainly not perfectly. So, we do sin, but due to our orientation we find such behaviour offensive and seek to overcome the problem / do better next time. Translations try to draw this approach out by the way they handle the durative present in this passage, eg., v9, ποιει, "doing": "will continue in sin", NIV; "makes a practice of sinning", ESV; "the person who lives in Christ does not habitually sin", Phillips, ...... rather than "everyone who has been born of God commits no sin", Berkeley. For a detailed examination of the possible solutions to this interpretive problem see Brown p413-416.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:7

Arguments in support of the proposition, #6 - Confidence in the family of God, v1-10: ii] The necessity to renounce sin, v4-10; b) Victory through the indwelling Christ, v7-10. A person born of God is orientated toward living for God rather than living for the devil. A person orientated toward sin is not born of God, but is born of the devil. A person observing the behaviour of both these children can easily see who is the child of God and who is the child of the devil. With affectionate words, John warns his readers not to be deceived, v7. Many people will claim to be righteous before God, but in the end, the righteous person is someone who strives to lead a good life, a life which reflects the life lived by Jesus. John uses rather stark language implying that a believer's life will be sinless, but he is probably describing orientation, rather than perfection. The righteous person, the godly person, is someone who strives to do the right thing; it is the person "in pursuit of righteousness who is righteous", Cassirer.

τεκνια (ον) voc. "dear children" - little children. Vocative, indicating transition. A statement of affection, endearment, setting the ground for the following imperative.

πλανατω (πλαναω) pres. imp. "do not let anyone lead you astray" - let not one deceive you. The imperative reminds us that there are those who are deceiving John's readers by their distorted "faith", 2:22, and ethics, 3:4, 6. John's readers must take care not to be deceived, misled, by the secessionists. Obviously "John is warning of missteps that could have consequences of eschatological proportions", Yarbrough.

ὁ ποιων (ποιεω) pres. part. "the one who does" - the one doing, practicing. The participle serves as a substantive, the present tense being durative; "the person who lives a constantly righteous life."

την δικαιοσυνην (η) "what is right" - righteousness [is righteous]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to do." With an eye to those who may lead his readers astray, John makes the point that the person who claims to be righteous ("is righteous") would actually do what is right; they would act in a way which aligns with the life and teachings of Christ, embracing the doctrine, ethics and love of Christ. Schnackenburg suggests that the secessionists may well claim to do just this, but their lives do not show it and that this fact needs to be noted.

καθως "just as" - as. Comparative. "Just as he is righteous" = "just as Christ is righteous"; "It is the man who is in pursuit of righteousness who is righteous in the sense in which Christ is righteous", Cassirer.

δικαιος adj. "[is] righteous" - [that one is] righteous. Predicate adjective.


The powers of darkness have infested God's beautiful creation, limiting human potential, v8-9. To address this problem, Christ took on our humanity to become the created being we should have been, obedient to God, trustworthy, loving, and facing the prospect of eternity. Standing against the temptation to choose the path of self-fulfilment rather than service, Jesus took on the role of a suffering servant, and in so doing he overcame the powers of darkness for those who would seek the light. A person who lives a selfish life, giving little consideration to either God or mankind, is someone who lives under the influence of darkness, not light. On the other hand, a person who is Jesus' fiend, a person born anew through the indwelling presence of Christ, will find themselves compelled toward goodness. They will sin from time to time, but they will not practice lawlessness.

την ἁμαρτιαν "[the one who does] what is sinful" - [the one doing, practicing] the sin. Accusative direct object of the participle "doing". The present tense of the participle ποιων is again best taken as durative; "the person who makes a practice of sinning", doing what is evil / acting against the will of God.

εκ + gen. "of [the devil]" - [is] from [the devil]. At one level the sense is likely to be comparative; just as the person who tends to act in a godly way is like the Father, so a person who tends to act in a sinful way is like the devil, and this because the devil has been into sinning ever since his fall. Yet, unlike v7, instead of the comparative καθως, we have εκ expressing source / origin. Derivation is likely, as in the sense of "born of / son of" - like father like son! So Brown, "belongs to the devil." A person in a relationship with Christ / "in Christ", tends to act as Christ would act, but a person who is in a relationship with the devil will tend to act as the devil would act.

ὁτι "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why sinful behaviour stems from the devil, "for the devil is behind all sin as he always has been", Phillips.

ἁμαρτανει (ἁμαρτανω) pres. "has been sinning" - [the devil] sins. The present tense is somewhat awkward, although as a durative present it makes the point that since the fall the devil has been practicing his wiles.

απ (απο) + gen. "from" - from [the beginning]. Expressing source / origin.

εις + acc. "the reason" - to = for [this reason]. Here the preposition expresses purpose / end-view; "for this purpose."

του θεου (ος) gen. "of God" - [the son] of god [was manifested]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, although the term is used as a messianic title rather than referencing a filial relationship with the Father.

ἱνα + subj. "-" - that. Here introducing an epexegetic clause specifying "the reason" for (εις τουτο - "for this purpose") the revealing / appearing / coming of the Son of God. "This is perhaps the clearest statement of the purpose of Jesus' ministry in 1 John, expressed in apocalyptic terms", Wahlde.

του διαβολος adj. "the devil's [work]" - [he might destroy the work] of the devil, enemy. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being taken as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective. "The work of the devil" is the enslavement in sin / evil of the totality of God's creation. Christ's work is to undo Satan's work; to lead representative humanity / the lost / the seeker, from a state of sin to a state of righteousness (some might argue for a status of righteousness, but if God declares us righteous then we are righteous).


ὁ γεγεννημανος (γενναω) perf. pas. part. "who is born of God" - [all] the one having been born. The participle is usually classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective πας, "all" = "everyone".

εκ + gen. "of [God]" - from [god]. Expressing source / origin, but see above.

ποιει pres. "will continue to" - is [not] doing, practicing [sin]. Durative present tense; see "Interpretation" above.

ὁτι "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a person "born of God" does not "make a practice of sinning", because they are a son of God - like father like son; they are in an abiding filial relationship with God, a child of God.

σπερμα α (ατος) "seed" - the seed [of him abides]. Nominative subject of the verb "to abide." Schnackenburg argues that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, of being indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, but it is more likely just an illustrative expression of a believer's relationship with the divine, of being united to Christ.

εν + dat. "in" - in [him]. Local, expressing space / sphere, here relational / incorporative union.

ἁμαρτανειν (ἁμαρτανω) pres. inf. " sinning" - [and he is not able] to sin [because he has been born from god]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "is not able." Again the durative present tense is usually stressed, as NIV. Note that John's argument moves up a notch; "the person who has God's seed abiding in him not only does not sin, he cannot sin", Brown. A person who is a child of God does not practice the art of sinning, ὁτι, "because" (causal), they have been born εκ του θεου, "out of, from God", ie., God's very nature is in them / they are united to God, one with God, and with such a parentage, they are incapable of defiant rebellion against God.


Conclusion. This verse is transitional, summing up the passage dealing with sin, the devil and the children of God, while introducing the subject of love. It is not the business of a believer to assess a person's standing in the sight of God; that's God's business. It is important though, for our own sake, to understand what makes for a child of the light, and a child of the dark, or John puts it, "the children of God, and .... the children of the devil." Faith is clearly the subjective essential, but genuine faith produces objective results - the fruit of love. So, a person who does not strive to lead a good life, who is devoid of love toward their brothers and sisters in the Lord, bears little resemblance to a child of God.

εν + dat. "[this is] how" - in = by [this]. Here instrumental; "by this. "Referring to v10b.

φανερα adj. "we know" - [is] manifest, evident, clear. Predicate adjective.

του θεου (ος;) " of God" - [the children] of god [and the children of the devil]. The genitive, as with "of the devil", is adjectival, relational; "born of God" / "born of the Devil."

ὁ μη ποιων (ποιεω) pres. part "who does not do" - [all] the one not doing, practicing]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective πας, "all" = "anyone", as NIV. The participial construction "anyone who does not do what is right" serves as the subject of the verb to-be εστιν

δικαιοσυνην (η) "what is right" - righteousness, justice. Accusative direct object of the participle "doing".

εκ + gen. "a child [of God]" - [is not] from, out of [god]. Expressing source, origin, so "he is not God's child", Barclay, as NIV.

και "nor is anyone" - also [all]. Here probably coordinative, as NIV, so Yarbrough, Kruse, but an epexegetic sense is possible, "that is, ..." ; "no one who in what he does ignores the claims of righteousness can trace his origin to God, that is to say, no man who is devoid of love toward his brother", Cassirer, so Smalley. Love of the brotherhood may not define righteous living, but "one demonstrates just actions in loving ones's brother", Wahlde, ie., brotherly love is a concrete example of what John means by righteous living.

ὁ μη αγαπων (αγαπαω) pres. part. "who does not love" - the one not loving. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the assumed substantive adjective "all = anyone." John uses the word in an active sense rather than as a feeling, "compassion" rather than physical attraction.

αυτου gen. pro. "his [brother] / [and sister]" - [the brother] of him. Genitive of relationship.


1 John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]