How appropos is this evening’s devotional. We have just looked at this doctrine in detail in our last study. Be encouraged, be prayerful. God is surely merciful to His children. Read on…
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Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9
THESE words have received two interpretations, both of which we believe are equally true. The more general one is, that he who is born of God does not willingly sin, having “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” he cannot sin with the full consent and concurrence of the will. He hates it, he fights against it, he resists it. But it may be inquired, is not all sin an act of the will? We reply, not the renewed will. The apostle speaks of two wills in a believer, or rather, the same will under two opposite influences. Thus, Rom. 7:15: “That which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” Ver. 19: “For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Few will question that Paul here speaks of himself as a regenerate man. And yet he refers to two antagonist principles dwelling in him—the one on the side of holiness, the other on the side of sin. “What I hate, that I do.” No man can possibly hate sin, unless he is “born of the Spirit.” “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” And still he says, “what I hate,” the sin that is so abhorrent to me—”that I do.” Is there volition in the act? True philosophy demands that we reply, “Yes.” Every sin must be voluntary; if not so, it cannot be sin. Is there the concurrence and consent of the renewed will in the act? True grace demands that we reply, “No.” “For what I hate,”—there is the mark of the regenerate man—”that do I,”—there is the act of the will under the influence of indwelling sin.
But there is another and a stronger interpretation of which the passage is susceptible. It is this—He that is born of God, as such, sins not at all—there is in him a regenerate soul, an indwelling, living principle of grace and holiness, whose natural and constant bias is to holiness. “He” (the new man) “cannot sin, because he is born of God.” “He cannot sin;”—why? “because his seed remains in him;” and what is that seed? “Incorruptible,”—”Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.” In accordance with Christ’s own words, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It is spiritual, holy, “from above,” “the Divine nature,”—it “cannot sin, because it is born of God.”
Again, we beg the reader to mark this great evidence of regeneration. “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin.” He does not commit it with the total, absolute, and complete assent and concurrence of the renewed will. He does not give himself over to sin “with greediness.” He “would do good.” He hates sin. Grace reigns, not sin. Sin dwells in him, but does not govern—it has power, but does not rule—it torments, but does not reign with a continued, unbroken supremacy; in accordance with the promise, “sin shall not have dominion over you.” It may for a moment triumph, as it did in David, in Solomon, in Peter, and in a host of other eminently holy men; yet still the promise is verified, as we see in the restorings of the blessed Spirit in their spirit and conduct, in their humblings and confessions, and their holy and upright walk with God in after-years. Reader, have you ever been made sensible of the inward plague? What do you know of the warfare within—of “the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh”? Your honest reply will decide the great question, whether you are born of God.
EVENING THOUGHTS, or DAILY WALKING WITH GOD
Octavius Winslow, 1858
Thanks to our good brother at gracegems.org for this devotional