1 John 3:6 Every, the one abiding, in Him does not sin. Every, the one sinning, has not seen Him with discernment nor experientially knows Him.
We do not see the change in any of our English translations with the word “sin” in this passage. ‘Sin” is used twice, once as a verb, which describes an action and once as a participle which describes a characteristic. The KJV and NAS us the same word “sin” for both forms, which actually hides the meaning from the reader. The ESV attempts to distinguish the words from the NAS and KVJ, but ends up making the same mistake. The forms of the word “sin” are very important here. A participle is a verbal noun which uses an action to describe a person or characterize them as someone who does the action stated by the verbal portion. Its focus is not on the action of the verb directly. Whereas, a verb simply looks at the action.
We have two participles that are extremely important to our understanding of this passage. First is “the one abiding”. This is one who is characterized as feeling as ease in Him (Christ). Not just simply abiding for a small period of time, off and on, but not really feeling at ease; rather, one who has settled down and feels at ease with who he or she is in Christ. In the translation above I followed the Original Greek, which makes for a bit of hard English, but also helps to bring out the truth of the passage. “Every, the one abiding” (participle), is not referring directly to the action but to the characteristic of the individual who is abiding. “every” is added in the Greek to emphasize the individual is in view. When we are so comfortable with who we are in Christ that we predominately setting down and feel at ease with God’s opinion of us in Christ, we will not sin (verb) because we are abiding in Him and our actions will represent this frame of mind.
We have a promise from God concerning sin in our lives. When we are walking by the Spirit, that is we are Spiritual and are emanating the things of the Spirit and therefore governing out lives by the Spirit, we will not ever bring to completion the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:16. A Spiritual Christian cannot sin because the desires from the Holy Spirit are against the desire of the flesh to stop the desire from the flesh from being worked out to sin, Galatians 5:17.
The other participle is “the one sinning”, which is the second time the word “sin” is found in the passage. The first time you come across “sin” it is a verb. So the one who is characterized as sinning, or a sinner, is not one who abides in Christ, but rather is one who has not seen Christ with discernment nor experientially knows Christ. Now at this time no one has seen Christ in this way since His resurrection, but in the context it is talking about when we do see Him with discernment we will be like Him, and therefore never sin again, 1 John 3:2. However, we can and should experientially know Christ in our lives now.
A Spiritual man knows the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:16
We have come to know God, Galatians 4:9
We can know the love of Christ, Ephesians 3:19
Knowing the natural ability of His resurrection in our lives, Philippians 3:10
This passages is not saying that Christians do not sin (verb), rather, it is stating that when we are abiding in Christ to a point that it is becoming a characteristic of who we are rather than just an action, we will not be sinners (participle). We won’t sin because we are abiding in Christ. But even if we do sin, it is not a characteristic of who we are, but a result of acting as if we do not abiding in Christ. However, if someone is one who is known to be a sinner, characterized by a sin (participle), this one does not having an experiential knowledge of Christ and is therefore not saved, for they do not know Christ.
There is a huge significance between a verb and a participle that is often ignored in many of our modern translations. As a result there are many that call themselves Christians that do not have any experiential knowledge of Christ. Only one who is saved will experience who Christ is, for only when we are saved can we know Him in this way. This is not to say that Christians do not sin, that would be contrary to Scripture, but that one who is saved will not be characterized by a sin because within salvation is freedom from sin. We have all we need to live a life of godliness, including how to have victory over sin in our lives here and now. And if a saint does not wish to stop sinning, as a true child of God he will be disciplined until he stops, 2 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 12:6; 1 Corinthians 11:30, 32. One who is characterized by sin and therefore one who is doing (particle) sin is not God’s child, but the Devil’s, 1 John 3:8, 10.
All of this from just simply understanding that a participle is used rather than a verb.
Be cautions in how you apply this. Christians can struggle with sin (verb) in their lives. But this is an action that comes about because the saint is not taking God as His word and applying the proper defense to overcome sin. However, if someone says they are a Christian, but their actions show otherwise and there is never a change; they are characterized by their sinful actions (participle): a thief, a fornicator, a legalist, etc., this one is not saved. We will know other Christian by their works, not by their words.
Salvation comes by believing that Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. All who believe are permanently changed by God so that it is impossible to live a life that is characterized by sin (participle), for in Christ we are no longer slaves to the sin nature, but slaves to righteousness.