“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9).
While the new birth and justification are inseparable, they are in fact different in nature. Justification changes our outward relationship to God, that is, we are reconciled to Him. The new birth is a work that God does within us, meaning that His image is now in us. Justification takes away the guilt, but the new birth removes the power of sin. These two are joined together the instant we receive Christ, but we have to acknowledge their distinct natures. In this sermon we will seek to determine what “Whosoever is born of God” means, and the true sense of “doth not commit sin.”
Whosoever is born of God
The moment we are born again a vast inward change occurs within us. We no longer want to live the way we did before. The circumstances of natural birth shed some light on the way we understand the spiritual.
An unborn child knows nothing of life outside of the womb. In a sense he is in darkness, and blind to the meaning of life. He has the signs of life, and has motion, but has no understanding of the material world or of self. It is as though a thick veil separates him from true discernment. Yet, as soon as he is born, he exists in quite a different manner. He now breathes the air, has awareness of self, and things and people around him. His understanding and discernment is gradually increased, and his bodily senses awakened. His eyes soon discover the light, and his ears are attentive to the torrent of new sounds. He begins to interact with the visible world.
So it is with those who are born again. Before the new birth we were insensible to God, and did not concern ourselves with His existence. Our eyes were closed, and our ears deaf to spiritual realities. We were surrounded with darkness on all sides, so that we could not discern “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14.) A thick veil separated us from understanding the things of God. As soon as we were born again our entire existence changed! We became sensible of God … “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). We were immediately filled with the Spirit of God and began to breathe the air of Heaven. We received the faith to love, pray, praise and worship God. Our spirits were awakened so that we might discern spiritual things. The eyes of our understanding were opened (Ephesians 1:18), and realised what great love and mercy God has shown to sinners. Our ears were then enabled to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:4). Our spiritual senses began to know what “peace with God” is (Romans 5:1), and that God had shed His love abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Doth not commit sin
The one who has been born again, that is, received new life, and has exercised true faith toward God, does not continue in sin. In other words, he “doth not commit sin.” “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself” (1 John 5:18).
The sin we are referring to is all outward sin, meaning our voluntary transgressions of God’s law as revealed in the Scriptures. Those who truly love God cannot wilfully transgress any of God’s commands, either by speaking or acting what he knows the Lord has forbidden. He refrains from whatsoever is known as an abomination in the sight of God.
We know that it is possible for the children of God to commit gross sin, and that wilfully, by breaking the plain commandments of God. David, though displaying great faith and love for God, nevertheless allowed himself to commit evil deeds such as adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). Barnabas, a man used mightily by the Holy Spirit and known as “the son of consolation,” became embittered against Paul concerning John Mark (Acts 4:36-37; 11:29-30; 13:1-4; 15:35,39). We read of Peter, the first of the apostles, playing the hypocrite amongst the Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). Each of these men fell into sin because they removed themselves from their steadfastness and faith in God. They did not “keep” themselves in the grace of God, but allowed evil desires or tempers to control them. Their spirits were now closed again as God was removed from the equation.
Notice how one progresses from grace to sin one step at a time:  Born again by the Spirit of God.  Temptation arises in the heart, be it fleshly or devilish in origin.  The Holy Spirit warns about the consequences of the sin.  The flesh crumbles, and the thought of the sin becomes tantalising.  The Holy Spirit is grieved; faith is weakened, and love for God grows cold.  The Holy Spirit sharply reproves him and calls him to remain on the right path.  The Holy Spirit is ignored as the voice of the desires is listened to.  The evil desire spread through the soul, and he is now capable of committing the worst of sin.
The born again believer keeps himself and cannot commit sin that is until he surrenders himself by becoming entangled once more with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).
Loss of faith and commitment is the result of committing outward, wilful sin. We are all liable to temptation, particularly to the sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1), but it must be overcome by fixing our eyes upon God and His word. We sin when we are take the bait of our own desires … “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). We must continue to allow the Holy Spirit to work and minister in our souls, so that we might increase in love and awareness of God. We must offer up our thoughts, words, and deeds to Him as a holy sacrifice acceptable unto God in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:1). This implies that there must be a continuance of the divine life imparted to us at the new birth, for the Holy Spirit will not always strive, but will withdraw from us and leave us to our personal darkness (Genesis 6:3). Let us cast ourselves upon Him who saved our souls; let us continue in faith, love, studying His word, prayer and praise, for in doing so we’ll find that sin no longer dominates our lives (Romans 6:14).
Preached by John Wesley 23 September 1739.