Fellowship with God is rooted in our Settled Practice of Righteousness

John ventures forth having established our position before God as children of God to explaining that with this position comes a practice God’s children are to follow. The shift is subtle: our positional status prompts and promotes a practical style of living. This practical aspect is captured by John in 1 John 3.4-10.

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning—Present active participle, lit. the one doing  the sin. This is a person whose habitual practice is to sin (miss the mark, veer from the right). This is in contrast to “the one doing right” (2.29).

Also practices lawlessness—lawlessness (Gk. Anomia) is to behave with complete disregard for the laws of society. In this case, there is no regard for the laws (commandments) of the kingdom of God (cf. 2.3).

Sin is lawlessness—veering from what is right is also disregard for the law.

5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

You know—perfect tense of oida, absolute knowledge.

He appeared to take away sin—these Christians knew absolutely the purpose of Jesus’ coming: to take away, remove, bear/carry sins (ours). What is emphasized here is not the manner of the removal but the removal itself. Sin has been taken away.

In him there is no sin—not a single sin whatsoever. Present reality.

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

No one who abides in Him—or “Whosoever abideth in him” (KJV). Abiding in Christ means certainly to be in Christ, but it also points to the communion we enjoy with Christ/God and is characterized by our habitual doing of God’s will. If our goal and aim is to do the will of God (do right, 2.29), we would not keep on sinning…

Keeps on sinning—KJV “sinneth not.” (Linear) Present tense verb which is captured in the KJV with the “-eth” suffix attached to the word. This is not occasional sin John is talking about here but habitual sin. And as is characteristic of John’s writing, he presents the two camps as opposite (light and darkness, right and wrong).

This is also a logical deduction from the foregoing discussion: if the nature of the Son of God is sinless perfection and if His purpose in coming was to take away sin, then no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.

No one who keeps on sinning—and here is the clarification of the practice of sin (linear present tense participle). Lit. this is “the one sinning” and points to a life marked by a habit of sin. It also points a life which is not in Christ and denies Him.

Has either seen him or known him—Woods says this points to the enjoyment one finds in God (sees) and the recognition of God in one’s life (knows). John uses the perfect tense of the verbs: one has not seen nor presently sees Him and has not known nor presently knows Him. Indeed, Sin and Christ are irreconcilable, incompatible and are at enmity.

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Let no one deceive you—Let no one pull you away so as to stray from the truth.

Whoever practices righteousness is righteous—lit. the one doing the right(ness) as opposed to the one sinning (v.6). Compare this with 2.29. The one whose habitual practice (keeps on doing) is to do what is right concerning the will/law/commandments of God is righteous. In other words, you are doing what God desires. God makes us righteous through Christ; we, being righteous, will do what is righteous.

As he is righteous—In other words, your doing exactly what Jesus did while on earth. Character and practice cannot be separated; Jesus’ life shows us this.

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 

Whoever makes a practice of sinning—present tense part. lit. the one doing (the) sin. This is again continuous action, a lifestyle and career of sin. The habit of sin.

Is of the devil—cf. Jn 8.44; When one acts like the devil, they demonstrate they are not children of God but children of the devil. This person belongs to and is aligned with the devil. Important note: John is careful not to say they are “begotten” of the devil. “The devil made no one, he begot no one, he created no one; but whosoever imitates the devil, is, as it were, a child of the devil, through imitating, not through being born of him” (Augustine). “There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one, and man cannot find or make a third domain; if he is not in the one he is in the other.” – Pulpit Commentary

For the devil has been sinning from the beginning—this is his character. Hence, when one sins, breaking the law of God, they demonstrate the same character as the devil and their relation to him. “From the beginning” probably points to the devils fall from an angel of God to the demonic evil being he is now. He was the first sinner. But he continues to sin.

The reason the Son of God… – In v.5 we see the work of Jesus to take away sin. Here John adds that Jesus’ work was to destroy the “works” (pl.) of the devil. The word John uses for “destroy” is “loose” picturing, as it were, chains that had bound mankind; he unbinds, dissolves the bonds. So Christ, in removing our sins, looses us from the bonds of sin. He takes away/looses the us from the penalty and punishment of sin.

9 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.

No one born of God—Perf., pass., part; lit. the one having been born of God. How? John 3.3,5 – baptism. God is incompatible with sin; irreconcilable opposites. Hence…

Makes a practice of sinning—KJV “doth not commit sin” is unfortunate and unbiblical (2.1). John is dealing with the habitual, continual career of sin; walking in darkness.

For God’s seed abides in him—God’s seed has taken up resides and continues to dwell in the begotten of God. But what is that seed? Most commentators point to the parable of the soils where Jesus says the word of God is the seed. That’s fair. In context, that fits (2.24). The apostolic word. But dig a bit deeper: you had Gnostics running around saying they had been reborn and enlightened and as a result they had the divine nature  or seed remaining in them. Over against this heresy, John tells Christians who have been born again they have God’s seed (His nature) in them. And what higher motive is there for not sinning?

He cannot keep on sinning—indeed, if he is a partaker in the divine nature, God makes his dwelling in him, then he should be done with sin and be focused on righteousness (2.29; 3.7, 10). Children of God do not act unbecoming of their Father.

Because he has been born of God—perf. Pass., ind. We were begotten and stand begotten of God. We continue to be children of God, bearing the divine nature/image in our being.

10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

By this—preceding or what follows? Either/both for they both are similar

It is evident who are the children of God—the individual who is a child of God is clearly known by what their practice is. Partakers in divine nature. Cf. Matt 7.16

Who are the children of the devil—at the same time, we can clearly know (identify) who the children of the devil, those who are partakers in the nature of Satan (sin).

Whoever does not practice righteousness—Present Active Part., lit. the one not doing righteousness. This is lifestyle, habitual, continual career stuff.  What does it mean to “do righteousness”? Obedience to the will and word of God. Do what is right when faced with the commandments of our holy God. Said another way: doing what God desires of us. Ok, what does it mean not to “do right”? Failure to keep the commandments of God, disobedience to the law of God. The person whose life does not match up with God’s revelation is “not of God.”

The one who does not love his brother—Present Active Part., lit. the one not loving his brother. Here John ties in the “new commandment” and places this on par with righteous behavior. The significance of this commandment cannot be over-stressed. This is the springboard into the next portion of John’s letter about sacrificial love. Who is my brother? One commentator says “mankind at large.” Eh…But John specifies in 3.14, 16—”the brothers.” Fellow Christians, fellow children of God.