1 John 5:18-20 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
This epistle ascribed to John, the apostle, is not addressed to a specific church, or to the churches of a specific geographical area. Rather it is a general epistle that was written to Christians throughout the known world at that time. Also, as a general epistle, it is just as relevant today as it was at the time of its writing. This epistle deals at great length about the doctrine of Christian love for God and mankind, as well as the doctrine of sin and righteousness. These are spiritual truths that span all ages of time.
The lesson text relates to sin. However if we study this text at the exclusion of other teachings on this subject, we can come to a false conclusion. Notice what is said in the first verse of this text: We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. Taken by itself, one can conclude that it is not possible for a Christian to return to the sinful condition he or she had before believed, and accepted, the saving grace offered by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, notice a few verses regarding sin that John wrote, by inspiration, as he opened this epistle that was written to Christians. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).
How does one reconcile these quotations from the Holy Spirit-inspired writings of John, the author of both scriptures? Viewed alone, the first passage seems to say that a Christian, one experiencing the new birth, cannot sin, nor can the influence of Satan touch him. The second passage tells all Christians that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, and to deny this fac,t is to deceive ourselves, and make God a liar. This we know: both passages come from God, and God cannot lie. Therefore, both scriptures must be true. Problems understanding God's word are not His fault, or the fault of the Holy Spirit, or the writer, the apostle John. The fault, then, must lie with the misinterpreting of men and women that consider such passages, for their content alone, without regard for God's complete gospel message of salvation.
John warns Christians to strive to live righteously, but also knowing that all will, on occasion, commit sinful acts. At the beginning of chapter 2, John says, My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. The desire of John is the same as our heavenly Father - that all Christians sin not. Realizing that it is impossible to become and remain sinless throughout one's life, John adds this: And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Through God's omnipotent wisdom, He knew the sinful nature of all mankind. Therefore, in order to reconcile sinful men and women to His righteousness, He gave His Son, Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins. It is within this reconciled state that a Christian is assured that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (See 1 John 2:1-3).
His commandments are simple. We must become a Christian by hearing His word, believing it, repenting of our sinful past, confessing Jesus Christ as His Son, the Savior of the world, and being baptized for the remission of our sins. Then we must, as much as lies in us, live an obedient life of service to God, and to the cause of Christ, demonstrate our love to Him by our loving compassion for all mankind, and, when we do err in sin, that we prayerfully seek God's forgiveness, through the sacrificial blood shed on Calvary by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Having obeyed these commandments of God, we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Considering the complete word of God, in its context, this we know!