Re: Contradictions in 1 John?

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Wed Sep 17 1997 - 01:19:54 EDT

Jonathan, John V et al:

On Tue, 16 Sep 1997 15:02:42 -0400 Jonathan Robie
<> writes:
>At 05:20 PM 9/15/97 EDT, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>1. The omens speak against it
>Paul Dixon wrote:
>>But, there is no conflict here. EAN EIPWMEN hOTI hAMARTIAN OUK
>>ECOMEN (1:8a) must be interpreted in light of the contrasting parallel
>>1:9a, EAN hOMOLOGWMEN TAS hAMARTIAS hMWN. What is being >>contrasted
here is an habitual denial of sin which is characteristic of
>>nonbelievers, those who habitually deceive themselves and in whom the
truth >>is not, versus those who habitually confess sins, who have the
assurance that >>God is faithful and just to forgive them their sins.
>EAN EIPWMEN, EAN hOMOLOGWMEN - these are some of the WMENs I >am talking
about. John says "we", including both him and the "little children"
>(TEKNIA) to whom he writes. How can this "we" refer to non-believers?

OK, the WMENs (we) refer to the whole assembly of those who call
themselves brothers, ADELFOI, or TEKNIA, children of God, including both
the so-called brethren and the true brethren. But, frankly, it doesn't
matter exactly who the WMENs are here. What matters is whether or not
they meet the conditions in the protases of the conditionals introduced
by EAN. If they do, whoever they are, then certain things can be said
about them:
        1) they deceive themselves and the truth is not in them, v. 8;
        2) (by contrasting parallel, they do not deceive themselves):God
is faithful and righteous, the necessary result being their cleansing and
forgiveness of sins.

You ask, "How can this 'we' refer to non-believers?" It refers to
everybody. They just apply differently as the conditions are met. In v.
8 only non-believers can satisfy the condition of saying "we have no
sin." True believers repented of their sins and turned to Christ for
salvation, and they understand the on-going battle with indwelling sin
(cf Rom 7). Anybody who calls himself a Christian and denies these
things is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him. He is not a
Christian. On the other hand, only true believers can satisfy the
condition of v. 9. Did you ever hear of a nonbeliever who confesses
(Greek present tense) his sins? No, only true believers do that sort of
thing. Non-believers call it everything but sin: alternative lifestyle,
a sickness, a psychosis or neurosis, etc.
This is the first test, the confession of sin versus a denial of it, an
example of walking in the light versus walking in darkness (1:6-7), that
assures "those who believe" that they "have eternal life" (5:13).

So, when John says "we" he includes himself, and all his recipients. In
fact, it can include everybody. He could have said, "you," but this
tends to make it more personable, just as when I preach, its better to
include myself, than to always be saying "you." But, his use of "we"
does not exclude non-believers. Why should it?

I hope this answers it, Jonathan. If not, please let me know.

>2. If we can't sin, how can we sin?
>I think that 1 John 3:9 clearly says that we can not sin. As I said in
>my previous message,
>>There is a logical contradiction here. Paul wants
>>to take the present POIEI as a habitual present,
>>and argues that a child of God may sin, but can
>>not dwell in sin. Dale disagrees, pointing out that
>>verse 3:9 also says that that the child of God OU
>>DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN. I think that some people missed
>>the fact that DUNATAI is also present tense - at the
>>raw, literal level, I think that this phrase really
>>does say that a child of God can not sin. If I am wrong
>>about this, I would appreciate it if someone would explain
>>how it could be interpreted differently.
>I would be interested in knowing how you would address this point.

Yes, and thank you for asking. The first time I read your above
statement, "I think this phrase really does say that a child of God can
not sin," I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I thought, well maybe
Jonathan is somehow still seeing the present tense in his translation of
"sin." But, now it is more evident that what you are doing is reading
backwards from the English, than reading from the Greek. Yes, I suppose
if we translate it like that, then from the English we would get the
impression that John is saying that a child of God can not sin. Does
this mean he can never sin? Absurd. Of course, if you go with this
translation you will get a contradiction with 1:8, which is your point.

John Vellenga is exactly right here. The present tense suggests either:
        1. he cannot go on sinning (NIV); or
        2. he cannot sin habitually/characteristically; cf the NASV
rendering of the preceding parallel clause, "practices sin."

Do you see, then, that there is no contradiction between 1:8 and 3:9?
Those who are born of God do not sin
habitually/customarily/characteristically. But, this does not mean they
don't ever sin. They do (1:8, 2:1). If they say they don't have sin,
either a sin nature, or indwelling sin, or that they don't sin anymore,
they are deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. They are not
begotten of God.

Oh yeah, I liked your comic relief. Reminded me of the termite who
walked into the bar and said, "where's the bartender?"


Paul Dixon

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