This is, or should be, nothing new: John wrote, in I John 3:9, 'Whoever has been born of God does not sin', 'and why?', 'for His seed remains in him', indeed, 'he cannot sin, because he has been born of God'!
That's the reality!
In Matthew 1:21, which I've quoted before, Joseph was told to name Mary's Child Jesus, because He would 'save His people from their sins'. We can also refer, I believe, to Daniel 9:24, where the prophet is give a certain time line by which God would 'make an end of ( literally 'seal up' ) sin'. Inarguably, the 'man' Gabriel was referring to the redemption of 'the Israel of God' by the sacrifice of this same Jesus!
You may have heard the argument that, while John's words are true positionally ( before God, because of Christ ), in actuality we are not free of sin, because 'if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us' ( I John 1:8 ). I have addressed this 'problem' previously, in another article that I wrote several years ago, but I wanted to give it another look, from a slightly different approach, if you will. In the very next verse, we read those famous 'words of comfort' that 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness', which are indeed great words of comfort, but not, I believe, in the context in which they are usually read, that we must confess our sins every day in order that He might forgive us our sins. It is true that if we are a Christian, we will confess our sins, not in order that He might forgive them ( He's already done that! ), but our confession of sins comforts us with the realization that we have been forgiven, because we repented of our sins, when we turned to Christ! We confess our sins because we have been forgiven, not so that we might be forgiven. Another 'approach' that I've discussed previously, is that John was speaking, in the above passage, of what had previously happened in the unbeliever's life, that after we had confessed our sin and repented of it, Jesus had forgiven that sin and cleansed us from our unrighteousness! What a 'Blessed Assurance' it is, to know that, having confessed ( and repented of ) our sins, we can be assured that He has forgiven us our sins, in very fact that we have been 'perfected forever' ( Hebrews 10:14 ), and that when we do confess ( and repent of ) our sins against each other, this is simply proof to ourselves ( and to them ) of what God has done and is still doing in our lives!
I believe that, to a large extent, when many Christians read, in particular, the first epistle from John, they have a tendency, while trying to apply this letter to their own lives ( to which application can and should be made ), to overlook the historical situation that John was addressing. This is one of the biggest 'problems' facing the church today! John wrote, in verse six, that 'if we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth'. This is applicable for us today, but to the original audience that John wrote these words, I believe that they had a bit more meaning, that meaning being that if they were to 'walk' after the old manner of Judaism, and seek to remain 'under law' ( the Old Covenant ), that they had no fellowship with Christ, and did not practice the Truth! Some may ask 'why is this such a big 'problem; can we not apply this as easily to people Christians today?' Well, yes................and no! We can easily tell a person that is living in sin, while pretending to be a Christian that he cannot live as he is and still be a Christian, but when John wrote these words to his 'children', he was giving them warning that, if they did not heed his word, they were 'in danger of hell-fire' ( Matthew 5:22 ), and of being 'burned up' ( Hebrews 6:8, Matthew 13:30 )! Now, under the New Covenant; hope remains as long as life perseveres.
Back now, to the immediate context of chapter 3 of John's first letter; in verse 2, John writes 'Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is'. Believing, as some have come to, that Jesus Christ was revealed as the Son of God when He came in the 'clouds' of judgment to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, thus bringing a decisive end to the Old Covenant ( Judaistic ) economy, so it would follow that if Jesus was revealed at that time, in which 'every eye' saw Him, then we too have 'seen' Him and are seen that we are like Him! Directly following the first quote that I made, John wrote 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest; whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother'. Again, in both the historical and covenantal context, John was warning his 'children' that if they didn't 'walk' in the right paths, doing right and good as a way of life, that this was a sign that they were not of God, the 'other side of the coin' being that if they did walk in the right path, doing ( practicing ) right and good, as a way of life, then this was a sign that they were ( born ) of God, and therefore, could not sin, for 'His seed remains in them'!
Many will argue, 'But we still sin, by transgressing against God's law, His commandments!' This is true enough, as far as that goes, but do we really? Earlier in chapter 3 ( verse 4 ); John wrote, 'Whoever commits sin commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness', and little later, 'Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him'. ( No wonder so many peoples hearts 'sink' when they read this passage, and passages like it ( Romans 8:8, etc. ) without the covenant and historical context! ) I believe that John was addressing the particular sin that his people ( national, physical Israel, after the flesh ) were guilty of, that of 'denying the Lord ( Jesus ) who bought them' ( II Peter 2:1 ), and 'seeking to establish their own righteousness ( through the Law ), have not submitted to the righteousness of God' ( Romans 10:3 ). As I wrote above, John's words of wisdom are applicable for Christians today, but not in the sense of dire warning which he conveyed to his original audience. We can know, and take comfort in, that if we 'abide in Him', He being the very embodiment of the Law of God ( love ); we really can 'sin no more' because of His sacrifice on the cross, having 'become a curse for us' ( Galatians 3:13 )! On the cross of Calvary; God transferred the righteousness of His Son upon us and placed our sin upon Him, hence we have become, positionally, as some would say, 'the righteousness of God, in Him ( Christ )'!( II Corinthians 5:21 )
Ordinarily; when using this kind of language to 'preach' this message, many will get the idea that I am trying to say, as some of Paul's listeners accused him of saying 'let us do evil, that good may come' ( Romans 3:8 ), or 'let us continue in sin, that grace may abound' ( Romans 6:1 ), but this is not what I'm saying at all! All I'm saying is that when we truly strive to lead a Christian life, obeying God's commandment, most notably that of 'love', loving God, and our neighbor as ourselves; we are no longer to be classified as 'sinners' ( though technically; we still disobey, failing to do what we should ), not because we don't 'sin', but because of what Christ has done, in and through us!
It is a terrible thing, disobeying God's command to love; hate can be a terrible and powerful force! Look at our world today; even the exalted face of Christ ( Christianity ) has been marred by it, almost worse than His own physical visage was by the Roman and Syrian soldiers before His crucifixion, and 'hate' has done this! 'Love', however, as embodied by Christ, is much more ( infinitely so! ) powerful. The love of Christ made us rise from the deadness of sin ( yes, even our mortal, physical bodies ) ( Romans 8:10 & 11 ), so that we might be renewed, made a 'new creation', able to be 'led by the Spirit', keeping His command to love! Scripture tells us that to hate ( our brother ) is to sin against him; I would like to say that I don't 'hate' anyone, although there are times when I so strongly dislike certain people's actions, that I almost feel like strangling them ( that's not very Christ-like, is it...........wait a minute......)!
What does it mean then, to 'sin'? Is sin not the transgression of the law ( whatever law that might be )? Technically; I believe that is the very definition. I asked the question quite some time ago, 'Can a Christian Sin?' A dear sister replied that, no, we could not, that it is incorrect to say that we do, or that we should be called 'sinners'. As I said above; I too, believe this is incorrect; we can no longer be said to 'sin', nor can we truly be called 'sinners'! When we do something that we have been told not to do, whether it be by a parent, by law enforcement, or any other figure of authority, it is technically a sin, by the above definition. Against God, though, and His law of Love, which is what John was speaking of, we do not sin, if indeed we are 'led by the Spirit' to love our brother. Do we love perfectly, at all times? I know I don't, but Christ does, and if we are 'in' Christ, striving to obey His command to love, we have fulfilled the law ( Romans 10:4 ), and are no longer a transgressor of it!
By the grace of Christ ( alone ),
no longer a transgressor, and able to 'love the brethren',