“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
A decreasing pattern of sin in a believer’s life means his faith is genuine.
A sinful life pattern is incompatible with salvation. If you could continue in the same sinful pattern after being saved from sin, that would mean salvation is ineffective. Therefore, 1 John 3 deals with the saving work of Christ and reveals just how effective it is.
Verse 5 says Christ “appeared in order to take away sins.” If you say someone who has had the work of Christ applied to him is continuing in sin just as before, you are denying the purpose for which Christ came. He died to take away the pattern of sin as well as the penalty.
Therefore, if you are truly a believer you will relate to God in a totally new way, because the Christian “abides in Him” (v. 6). You are no longer a perpetual slave to sin, but you now have the option and ability to do good (see Rom. 6:14, 17-18). You will always be acutely sensitive to sin (Rom. 7; 1 John 1:8-9); yet, because of Christ’s abiding in you, your struggle will decrease over the years, and sin will be less and less a pattern in your life.
That brings us to 1 John 3:9, which is a reminder that believers have been born anew by the Holy Spirit. Your new nature or new disposition of life is the “seed” verse 9 speaks of. Just as the seed of a plant, when placed in the soil, produces a distinct kind of life, the divine seed produces a righteous life in you that ends sin’s dominance. And that seed will never die—1 Peter 1:23 says it is “imperishable.”
What does all this mean to you if you’re a genuine believer? It means you will see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life because you now have holy affections. It doesn’t mean sin will be eliminated, because your unredeemed flesh is still present. It means the more you practice righteousness—with its right motives, right desires, right words, and right actions—the less you sin, and the more you can be assured you’re a child of God.
SOURCE: From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997