Does Not Continue to Sin- 1 John 5:18
As we continue in our examination of this passage, we come to another rather puzzling verse in 1 John 5:18, which reads as follows in the NIV: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin, the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him”. Upon first glance , it may seem as though this verse teaches some kind of works based salvation, that anyone who “continues to sin” cannot be “born of God”. Is this in fact what John means here, that a believer who does not rid himself of all sin cannot remain a believer? We again here must mention, as in our last post, the importance of context. You may recall that an examination of the literary context of the entire letter of First John cleared up possible confusion over the meaning of the previous verse, and we will now see how an examination of the lexical context will clear up possible confusion over the meaning of this verse. The word lexical refers to how one defines words, to what a writer means when he uses a certain word or combination of words. The lexical issue which we will focus upon is how John uses the phrase “born of God” in his writings. What does John mean when he uses this phrase? The Greek word born here is gennao, normally translated as born or begotten. John uses it to refer to Jesus as one who has been begotten, one who is a “son” (John 3:16, 18:37). In John’s writings, a son is one who does the will of his father, one who is about his father’s business. What John means then, by one who is born of God, is one who is a son, one who does the Father’s will, who is about the Father’s business. This is further seen in a verse earlier in 1 John, in 1 John 2:29, which tells us that “Since you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right is born of Him”. One who is born of God does what is right, or does the will of God, is about God’s business. So what we find here is that John is not making a doctrinal statement, or giving instruction for life, but is making a definitional statement. He is telling us that one who is born of God is one who, by definition, does the will of God, is about God’s business. The doctrinal statement which John does make here is found in the second half of the verse, in which he tells us that “the one who is born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him”. The Greek word “keep safe” here is tereo, which basically means to guard or protect, and the word “harm” is hapto, which literally means to “touch”. So what John promises here is divine protection for those who seek to do the Father’s will, who are about the Father’s business. The promise to these is that the “evil one” will literally not be able to lay a hand on them, will not be able to impart any “spirit” which would cause them not to desire to do the Father’s will, not to be able to guide or steer them in the wrong direction. So what John promises here is that, for those who desire to do the will of God, who set themselves out to do so, no devil in hell will be able to prevent them from doing so. Those who are “born of God’ are those who seek, above all else, to do His will, and for those of whom this is true, no hellish enemy will be able to prevent them from doing so. So John is not telling us here that believers must “toe the line” in order to remain believers, but that true believers seek to do the will of God above all else, and those who are true believers in this sense need not ever fear the “evil one”, for the Holy and Righteous One will protect them from His schemes, and lead and guide them into God’s will for their lives.