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!
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.