First John 3:9
Written by Ron Hutchison

As one studies the book of 1 John there appears to be a contradiction in most of our English translations.  1 John 1:8 says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."  However, 1 John 3:9 says, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."

Some folks have used 1 John 3:9 to try to support the idea that a Christian cannot sin after he becomes a Christian.  However, that would contradict 1 John 1:8 which clearly teaches that Christians do sin after they become Christians. Is there a contradiction here?

Absolutely not! The answer lies in the tense of the verbs used in 1 John 3:9.  I am not one to recommend new translations without studying them thoroughly (and I'm not yet ready to recommend this one), but as I was reviewing the English Standard Version I was pleasantly surprised at its rendering of 1 John 3:9.  Let me quote it.  "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."  The English Standard Version translates the phrases "doth not commit sin" and "cannot sin" (KJV) as "makes a practice of sinning" and "cannot keep on sinning."  It does this because the words are present tense verbs which indicates continuous or ongoing action.  It is not the case that the person who abides in Christ will never sin, but that he will not keep on sinning as a habit of life like he did before he became a Christian. 

When 1 John 3:9 is translated correctly, there is no contradiction between it and 1 John 1:8.

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