First John 3:9 states, “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.” The seed of God comes at regeneration (sinning ends because both “God’s seed abides in him” and “he has been born of God”), abides in the believer thereafter (“abides in him”) and ends the power of sin (“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning”). What is this seed?
Some identify this seed as the Word of God. James states of the Father that “he brought us forth by the word of truth” (Jas 1:18). Likewise, Peter declares that “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God,” and “the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Pet 1:23, 25). These two passages both link the Word of God to the new birth, and though not the same word for “seed” in the Greek in 1 Pet 1:23 as it is in 1 John 3:9, it is something that “abides” or “remains” forever (same word in both verses). (Luke similarly uses Peter’s word for “seed” in recording Jesus’ parable in Luke 8:11: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”) Furthermore, John earlier commands his readers in 1 John, “Let what you heard from the beginning [i.e., the Word; cf. 1 John 1:1–4] abide in you” (1 John 2:24). Going back to the OT, God’s Word is also said to prevent the believer from sin. David states, “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip” (Ps 37:31), and, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). God’s Word is clearly instrumental in the new birth, abides in the believer, and mitigates the believer’s sin.
Others identify this seed as the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is involved in the new birth: “unless one is born of…the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Assuming “the anointing” to be the Spirit’s illumination given to the believer by Christ in 1 John 2:27, it (and thus the Spirit) abides in believers: “the anointing that you received from him abides in you.”
Perhaps better, the seed could be identified as a combination of the Word and Spirit. God gives new birth through the Spirit (John 3:5) who then abides in the believer (1 John 2:27). This work is not apart from the Word of God, which is also involved in the new birth (Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23) and abides in the believer thereafter (1 John 2:24; cf. 1 Pet 1:25). The Spirit overcomes the power of sin in the believer’s life and empowers him to obey God’s Word and thus no longer live a life of habitual sin (cf. Ps 37:1; 119:11).
How amazing it is that God would plant His seed within us! It gives us new birth, abides in us thereafter, and conquers the power of sin. May we live out what He has implanted in us of Himself and no longer live to sin!
The passages below speak of the appearing, revelation, and coming of Christ. Were we to transliterate the Greek words in each verse below, we could speak of Christ’s epiphany (appearing), apocalypse (revelation), and parousia (coming). While these terms make for an interesting study, especially when used other passages, it encourages us first and foremost to see how their use equips us to be better “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 1:7).
We should not question “the promise of his coming,” as do false teachers who do not recognize that Christ’s delay in coming is time given for more people to repent (2 Pet 3:4, 9). Rather, we should “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord…the coming of the Lord is at hand” (Jas 5:7–8).
Until Christ comes again, we should abide in Him “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28). Towards that end, we should pray that we would “be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23). Should we suffer for Him, we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13; i.e., the glory of Christ).
We look forward to reuniting with deceased believers through the resurrection and rapture that accompany the return of Christ. Among the resurrected “at his coming” will be “those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:23). Living believers “who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:15). Deceased believers are resurrected, and all are raptured and reunited in the air with the Lord (1 Thess 4:16–17). This event is “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” (2 Thess 2:1).
When He does come again, we look forward to our glorification and are thus commanded to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13). We also anticipate that “the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7). Added to this praise and glory and honor is the reward for our ministry to others, which Paul describes for himself as the “hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming” (1 Thess 2:19).
Summarizing the above, we do not doubt but patiently wait for Christ to come again. Until then, we should abide in Him, suffer as God sees necessary, and live blamelessly before Him. Our hope is not just in Christ Himself, but also the many blessings His coming brings. We are reunited with the believing dead and raptured together to Him. Our faith is then praised, and we are rewarded for our service to God. What an amazing return this will be! This truly is our blessed hope!
The Word of God is instrumental in conversion and sanctification. As to our conversion, Peter says you “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). While we may not know all of the Word of God, we at least know what is necessary for salvation when we first believe.
Thereafter, we find that the Word continues to work in us for our sanctification. The author of Hebrews states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Our thoughts and intentions are shown to us for better or worse as we internalize the Word of God.
The apostle John speaks of the Word of God abiding within an individual in the midst of statements of being spiritually strong and overcoming Satan: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14). It would seem that the Word within an individual plays a part in strengthening him to overcome sin. Perhaps this concept is in David’s words as well: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11; see also Ps 37:31).
Once we are born again through God’s Word, we are commanded to let it abide or remain within us. In so doing, we abide in God and Christ and have eternal life. Speaking of the Word as what was heard by his readers, John states, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24; cf. 2:25).
As we obey the command to let God’s Word abide in us (to keep on believing it), we find that, as we pray according to God’s will, our prayers will be answered. Christ states, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
From this handful of passages, we see the importance of God’s Word. We are born again through the Word and then grow by increasing in our knowledge and application of the Word thereafter. The Word is also vital to our prayers and spiritual protection. May we truly know it and store it in our hearts so that we might not sin but rather grow in knowledge and grace of God.
In contrast to antichrists who deny essential truths about Jesus Christ (1 John 2:18–19; cf.2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7), the readers of 1 John are told, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20), literally translated, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.”
That the anointing is from the Holy One is that it is from Jesus Christ. John later states that “the anointing” was something his readers “received from him” (1 John 2:27), the same “him” who whose “coming” is mentioned in 1 John 2:28 (“his coming”), indicating the “him” in 2:27 is Jesus, the One who is coming again (cf. Rev 22:7). Jesus is called the Holy One in other texts as well (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 2:27; 3:14; Rev 3:7).
The anointing itself is something that “abides in you” and “teaches you about everything” (1 John 2:27). Paul elsewhere states that “God…has anointed us,” which is to say that He “has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor 1:21–22). Paul’s focus is on God’s giving of the Spirit as a seal and guarantee of redemption (cf. Eph 1:13–14; 4:30). John’s focus is Jesus’ giving of the Spirit to an individual to teach him about the gospel in a way that involves the individual’s acceptance of it. (It could be said that either God or Christ anoints―the Father and the Son give the Spirit together. Cf. John 14:26; 15:16.)
What John teaches in 1 John 2:20, 27 about accepting truth is taught by Paul in 1 Cor 2:14–15. Speaking of an unbeliever’s rejection of God’s revealed truth, Paul states, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). In contrast, the believer does accept God’s truth: “The spiritual person judges all things” (1 Cor 2:15). The unbeliever does not have the Spirit and rejects truth, and the believer does have the Spirit and accepts truth (cf. 1 Cor 2:12–13).
The Spirit’s anointing is not something that imparts truth. The unbelievers in 1 John 2:19 had to have known the objective content of the gospel as did John’s readers; they were once among the readers and eventually left the church (1 John 2:19). Rather, anointing is the Spirit’s work in someone that enables the individual to savingly accept the truth that he already knows. Theologically, this anointing necessarily comes at the point of one’s conversion.
Summarizing the above, every believer is anointed with the Spirit at conversion. This anointing entails the Spirit’s abiding presence, ensuring the believer of his future redemption. As it did first at his conversion, this anointing also helps him to continually learn, understand, and accept the truth of God.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.