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

Can't Touch Us

However, ...

1 John 5:18–19

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV)

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (NKJV)

I show both the ESV and the NKJV translations here because of the tough translation issues. In the first part of verse 18, the ESV better conveys the durative present tense sense of the Greek word for keep on sinning (ἁμαρτάνει “ha-mar-tahn-ei”). The durative sense comes not only from the verb conjugation but also from the context of 1 John 1:10. We know it can’t say that Christians never sin, only that Christians don’t make a practice of it.

But, for the second part of verse 18, the NKJV rendering is preferred, not because of how a word should be translated but because of a recent development in the archeological consensus on which manuscripts are judged to be more reliable. The manuscripts that have the Greek word for “himself” (ἑαὐτόν “heh-au-ton”) are now preferred.

The point of all this is that we are not under the sway of the evil one because we are born of God and thus keep ourselves from practicing sin.

The enemy can’t touch us.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

“World” here means the human race. Rocks and trees, birds and fish are not sinful. We’re up against a formidable foe, and he has a formidable army.

But it’s worse than that. The Greek is much shorter and more direct. First off it literally only says, “The whole world lies in the evil one.” There’s no “sway” or “power.” Those words are a translator’s interpretation of the meaning of “lies in.”

And if that’s not bad enough, the Greek word translated as “lies” (κεῖται “kay-tai”) means “lies” or “reclines.” So, the whole world is just relaxing in the arms of Satan.

Oh, goodie.

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:

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

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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