“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.” ~ 1 John 3:8
Explanation of the Text: The sharpness of John’s writing can be a bit overwhelming. As he has built up the need to refrain from the practice of sinning, John comes to an apex of reproof noting that a practitioner of sin is in line with Satan himself. How coarse these words must sound to the sinner! Yet the words maintain a strong convicting undertone meant to both teach truth amidst the strength of the false teachers, and also motivate one to a course of action that is in line with truth Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is important to note once again, John’s reference is to those who are engaged in habitual sin as noted by his phrase ‘makes a practice of sinning.’ He is conveying the idea that yes, we will battle with sin on an ongoing basis until the point of ultimate glorification. But, it comes down to those who make it a habit to engage in sin on an ongoing basis. It points to a person’s consideration being pinpointed on personal pleasure rather than a person’s conviction being prioritized by a pious God.
He then gives a clear indication of the contrast between Satan and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the antithesis to Satan and it is God’s work through Him that destroyed the works of Satan. The Greek word for ‘destroyed’ literally means ‘to undo.’ At the work of the cross and resurrection, Jesus Christ undid all of Satan’s work. The question commonly asked then is “why do we still sin?” It is important to recognize that the completion of this is not necessarily in the here and now, at least in a manner of speaking. With the work of Christ, he began the process of undoing Satan’s works, and yes sin is still engaged with this present age. But it does not have a stronghold. We are told that by the work of Christ, we no longer need to be enslaved by sin, which is the work of the Devil. Furthermore, the completion of this undoing will be seen in the future at the ultimate defeat of Satan and his followers. Therefore, indeed Christ has undone the work of Satan and does not have complete control over the world in which we live.
In view of verse 8, in conjunction with 1 John 1:7 and 9, Christ’s work was sufficient to cleanse people from their sin and to destroy the work of Satan. “In the light of all this, the author urges his readers to not be led astray by those who claim that sinful behavior does not matter” (1).
Examination & Application of the Text: John’s meaning is clear. Sin and Christ are incompatible. Therefore, a person cannot remain neutral in this area. Either one is actively engaged in sin or one is actively disengaged with sin. As we have continued in our study, this point is constantly reaffirmed by John. I would say that it is not necessary to continue reaffirming this point. Yet, there is a need to be constantly reminded of this. If it were not so, we would not see the issue so prevalent in Scripture. Second, we see the application of this in our experiences with others everyday. There is a need to remember this point, to refrain from sin because of who Jesus Christ is and what He did. Continue to dwell on this.
However, I think this verse also brings out an important point. Jesus Christ defeated Satan. It is a certainty, a fact that will not change. Why is this important? Because the past work of Christ in defeating Satan has an effect in our present state and will also be a major impact in the future. In this then, we have hope.
We live in a world in which it seems that things are falling apart. As our culture gets further from God, it is reflected in the behavior of society. For many this is a scary fact, so much so that people dwell upon the scary circumstances in which we live. It becomes easy to not engage with the culture around us because of the fearfulness. We should not embrace this sinfulness, but neither should we ignore it or not involve it. To be lights to the world, we must be engaged with it. We get our morning coffee, shop for our groceries, or work in a secular world and in that way engage with it in order to show Christlikeness and the love of God to a world that feels unloved. My point is simply this though. We must not live in fear about the direction of people. We should not embrace it, but instead we must engage it. Meaning, we should be comfortable sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only way this behavior will change, because we have hope of the future that is to come.
Questions to Consider:
- Do you live in constant fear of the world around this? How do you overcome this fear?
- What impact does Christ’s work have in your life?
- What impact does Christ’s work have in how you live your life?
(1) Colin Kruse, The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 123.