Some people suggest that christians are safe and will not lose their souls as long as they don’t PRACTICE sin – as in “habitually”. They might also suggest that true born-again christians do not practice sin but they do sin occasionally and they can never stop sinning. This is just another attempt to excuse sinning.
How many sins must a person commit to be considered “practicing” sin? One single murder or bank robbery in a life time would not be considered to sin habitually, but we know that one single sin made a huge difference for Adam and Eve. Perhaps being unfaithful every other year wouldn’t be considered practicing sin either? Where do we draw the line? The Bible says that nothing impure shall enter the new Jerusalem:
Rev. 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
True repentance (along with our faith) is the only thing that can save us.
The Greek word used for “to commit” is in itself proof that “commit” does not mean “practice”. In the Greek NT there are two words that are commonly used to express the idea of doing something. The first is “poieo”, the second is “prasso”, according to Blueletter Bible.
4160 poieo, appear. to make or do (in a very wide application)
4238 prasso, to “practice”, i.e. perform repeatedly or habitually (thus differing from poieo which refers to a single act); to execute, accomplish, fare, commit, deeds, do, keep, require, use arts.
When the Apostle John wrote “Whosoever is born of God doth not COMMIT sin” he used the word “poieo” (to make or do sin with the idea of a single act), and if he wanted to communicate the concept of “practicing” sin he could have used “prasso”.
John Wesley says:
“But some men will say, ‘True: whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin habitually.’ Habitually! Whence is that? I read it not. It is not written in the Book. God plainly saith, ‘He doth not commit sin’; and thou addest, habitually! Who art thou that mendest the oracles of God?-that ‘addest to the words of this book’? Beware I beseech thee, lest God “add to thee all the plagues that are written therein’!” / John Wesley’s Fifty Three Sermons “The Marks of the New Birth” April 3, 1741
1 John 3:9 mostly applies to Jesus because he is certainly “born of God” and his seed remains in God (the Father), but in a way it also applies to us who are in the son. Jesus actually had the capacity to sin or else he would not be tempted in all things just like us, like the Bible says he was. He rather chose to live a sinless life for our sake. We too obviously have the capacity to sin, but if we are led by the holy Spirit, we do not sin. The term “seed” above is generally understood to mean “God’s word” and seed is often typical of the Word of God (for example, Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23) but we know that believers are also referred to as “seed” (Rom 9:8; Gal 3:16, 19, 29)
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed (the believer) remaineth in him (Jesus): and he (the believer) cannot sin, because he is born of God (which is to abide in Jesus).” 1 John 3:9
This is confirmed in 1 John 3:6
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” 1 John 3:6
It is not impossible for a believer to sin but rather, it is impossible for a believer to sin as long as he abides in Jesus (which is a condition to remain a believer). The chapter does not teach that it is impossible for a christian to sin but that it is possible that he, through God’s grace, avoids it. No believer has to sin (Titus 2:11-12, 1 Cor 10:13) and the Bible does not say that we are off the hook if we only transgress the law just once in a while instead of several times. Repentance is the only cure. If we mix sin and “sorries” on a daily basis, we have not truly repented.
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
1 Joh. 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.—10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
We are told to not hate anyone because hating is like being a murderer. If we are to believe that our souls are not in danger as long as we do not habitually sin, does this mean we can perhaps get away with hating one single brother? Of course not, because no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 Joh. 3.15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
We can also see that the condition for having confidence toward God is that our heart does not condemn us. If the case is that our conscience tells us that we have acted wickedly (our heart condemns us) then God is merciful and will forgive us IF we confess our sins and truly repent. If we harden our hearts and pursue in the sin we know is wrong, then our souls are in danger. If you have a chance, do read the article about our faith as “filthy rags”.
1 Joh. 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
Other mentions of “committing” sin outside of 1 John 3
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
2 Corinthians 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
James 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.