We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
1 John 5:18
One of the beautiful things about being a Christian are the promises God gives to His followers. Since God does not lie (Titus 1:2), His promises are sure and certain. These assurances help the Christian find encouragement, peace and joy during the hardships of life (Romans 15:4; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:2-4).
One thing all Christians need to be assured about is sin. I’ve yet to meet a faithful child of God who is knowledgeable in the Scriptures who still has not at some point agonized over the sin in their lives to the point of wondering if their soul was in danger of hell. There have been times in my life when I was sure that I was unforgivable, that God would refuse to have mercy on me because of the sin I struggled against continually. As a preacher I’ve had many disciples of Jesus come to me with tears in their eyes, asking if there was still hope for them because of their failures…sins for which they can’t forgive themselves and so conclude God will not forgive them either.
The book of 1 John is a book all Christians should read regularly. In it, the Holy Spirit of God inspires the apostle to acknowledge that all Christians sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1:8, 10). Yet we also read this comforting promise from God given to us through John’s pen: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:7, 9).
We read this also: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:1-2). And this: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake…I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (2:12, 14).
We likewise read the passage quoted above (5:18). The literal Greek would have it read that everyone born of God “does not keep on sinning.” The verb is present tense, continual. God is telling us that those born of Him sin from time to time (cf. 1:8, 10), but we do not continuously practice sin. The faithful Christian continually resists sin.
This is why the verse also says that the one born of God “keeps himself.” God helps the Christian avoid sin (1 John 3:9), but the Christian’s faith must cooperate with His power (1 Peter 1:5). The one born of God must never sin with a willful, purposeful, unrepentant mindset about his sin (Hebrews 10:26-31). The Christian must “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7), continually acknowledging sin when he commits it with a humble, penitent heart full of godly sorrow over his sin (1 John 1:9; cf. Acts 8:22; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
As a result, the Christian has God’s promise that “the wicked one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). This is because his sins are continually forgiven by God (Hebrews 8:12), so that the devil (diabolos, slanderer, accuser) has nothing of which to accuse him. Thus, the Christian’s lack of condemnation before God is assured (Romans 8:1). As long as “the word of God abides in you,” the Christian will have “overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).
Does God’s Word abide in you? Are you “born of God”? It starts with faithful, penitent baptism (John 3:5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.