From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Sat Sep 20 1997 - 20:42:47 EDT

On Sat, 20 Sep 1997 06:59:22 -0500 "Carl W. Conrad"
<> writes:

>(2) The greater worm (nibbling at my mind, at least) is the question,
>how does this bifurcation of hAMARTIA into mortal and venial sin bear
>our former worm (if I may speak thus affectionately of it), namely the
>relationship of 1 Jn 3:9 and 1 Jn 1:5-10? Does 1 Jn 3:9 mean that one
>CANNOT commit a "mortal" sin but CAN commit a venial sin?

No, if the nuance of the present tense in 3:9 is customary, then it says
no one who is begotten of God sins customarily, habitually or
characteristically. What does this mean? Simply that he is not
characterized by unrigteousness (3:10), but by obedience (2:3; cf Mt
7:21, "not everyone who says unto Me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom
of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven."). So,
in 3:9 and throughout most of the epistle John is not thinking about
particular kinds of sin, but of sin in general, a lifestyle of
unrighteousness (if we walking in the darkness [1:6]) versus a lifestyle
of righteousness (if we walk in the light [1:7]). It is not until we get
to 5:16 that a particular sin, or the one time occurrence of that sin is
envisioned, hAMARTIAN PROS TON QANATON. John, of course, does not
elaborate, but he does suggest the possibility that the sin unto death
can occur, and that its occurrence is noticeable to others.

The question, then, becomes, is it possible for one who is begotten of
God, who does not and cannot sin as a lifestyle (3:9) to ever commit this
"sin unto death," whatever that sin is? Well, now the question becomes,
what is meant by "sin unto death?" If we answer, as some do, that this
is a sin which results in an unforgiveable and irrevocable condemnation
to hell, then we have one who is begotten of God being condemned to hell,
or the possibility of a true Christian irretrievably losing his
salvation. On the other hand, if QANATON here refers not to spiritual
death, but to physical death, then we have the possibility that a true
child of God, one who is not characterized by unrighteousness, suffering
the ultimate discipline (physical death, 1 Cor 11:28ff) for some serious,
though only once occurred, sin.

Another option is that it is impossible for a true child of God to commit
the "sin unto death." This would suggest, then, that the ADELFOS being
observed in the act of committing such a sin is not really a child of
God. This certainly has the possibility in a book where two lifestyles
are being contrasted and where at least one purpose of the book is to
assure believers that they do have eternal life (5:13). This parallels,
of course, the unpardonable sin committed by the nonbelieving Pharisees
(Mt 12:30-32). It was after this that Christ's ministry changed
radically as He began to teach in parables, "because why seeing they do
not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Mt

This might give us a clue as to what specifically is meant by hAMARTIAN
PROS QANATOS. Perhaps the author of Hebrews sums it up nicely, "for if
we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but a certain terrifying
expectation of judgment ..." (Heb 10:26-27).

It may be that until we see the evidence of a stubborn willfulness to
persist in sin after the truth has been given and plenty of opportunity
given to receive it, then we ought to be in prayer for the repentance of
the sinning individual. But, if a stubborn refusal to repent of sin
persists after receiving the knowledge of the truth, then John's words
may be taken to heart, OU PERI EKEINHS LEGW hINA EPWTHSH. Concerning
this, he does not say that we should pray.

I know this rubs against a lot of our thinking regarding evangelism.
But, Christ told His disciples as He was sending them out, "whoever does
not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that
city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be
more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah the day of judgment,
that for that city" (Mt 10:14-15).
>subjects of 1 Jn 1:8 and 9 possessors and confessors respectively of
>or of "venial" sins? Perhaps the answers to these questions are
>evident to a keen logician and canon lawyer, but as I am neither the
>one nor the other, I'm a bit curious about how the relationship of 1 Jn
>5:16-17 and 3:9 and 1:5-10 is to be understood.

I do hope my answer was clear.

Paul Dixon

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