Faith and Action
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 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. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:7-10
As believers who have been made righteous by Jesus’ death and resurrection, will we continue to sin before Jesus returns? The answer is clearly yes, as discussed back in chapter 1. In fact, John warned that if we don’t accept the fact that we sin, then “we deceive ourselves” (1:8). However, this doesn’t change the fact that people’s actions, including their sin, is what reveals whether they are children of God or of the devil.
As children of God in a world ruled by Satan’s lies and rebellion, it is obvious that we are not without temptation. However, as children of God with our hope in Jesus’ return when such temptation will finally be destroyed, we don’t have to fear sin and temptation. We no longer have to fear the death that is produced from sin, because Jesus already claimed victory over death when He rose from the dead. Instead, we can keep on fighting temptation with confidence that our current tribulations are not pointless but have purpose. We can have confidence that Jesus fought against every sin that we ourselves face and is constantly helping us resist them.
This kind of fighting sin, this kind of forward motion propelling us closer and closer to complete righteous living in heaven is what reveals us as children of God to the entire world. Christians cannot sin against God in a way that completely denies faith in Him, as the sins of unbelievers do. Christians refuse to stop loving others, because they truly understand the gift of grace that is their Father’s love. John doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed by the mistakes and sins that they will inevitably make, but he also wants to warn us about the seriousness of sin because it is no longer compatible with our identity as children of God.
Therefore, verses 7 through 10 help summarize the fact that our actions do not determine our identity as children of God, our faith in Jesus did that. However, our actions do reveal our identity as children of God. A true believer cannot have faith unaccompanied by actions of love and obedience.
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. What is the difference between the sins of unbelievers and the sins of Christians?
2. Is it more important to have faith or to act like a Christian.
Dear God, we want to have the kind of faith that leads to action. We pray that the Holy Spirit would give us the will to act the way you want us to. Amen.