Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The DEEP

Practicing Sin

or hating it.

1 John 3:4–9 (ESV)

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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. 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.

The ESV translation is better here because it emphasizes the durative present tense sense of the Greek word translated here as, “makes a practice of sinning” (ἁμαρτίαν “ha-mar-tih-ahn”). The NKJV simply says, “commits sin.” The NIV just says, “sins.”

This distinction is important because one could be misled into thinking that this passage says that Christians never sin. That would contradict what Paul wrote about his internal struggles, particularly in Romans 7:15–17 (Note that the Greek there is in the present tense. Paul can’t be speaking of his former self.)

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (ESV)

Notice how Paul’s anguish in Romans seven meshes with the final sentence in today’s passage.

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.

Sin has become the very thing I hate. So, he cannot keep on sinning. And how did sin become the very thing I hate? Because he has been born of God.

When we become Christians, we don’t totally cease sinning. In fact, the sinning doesn’t instantly change at all.

But the hating it does.


And thus begins our sanctification. With sins now visible, and ugly, the practice of sinning loses its appeal.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard. Sanctification is slow. Thus the word, “practice” takes on an additional connotation. Sin or not sin is a practice.

One might even say, “Practice makes perfect.”


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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