Q:  The Apostle John says that a person who is born of God does
not sin and cannot sin but he also says that the truth is not in us, if
we say that we have no sin.  This seems to be a contradiction.  
How do you reconcile these difficult scriptures?   
1John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed
remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1John 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the
truth is not in us.
Our Evil Nature
A: It is easy to understand the Apostle John when he speaks
concerning our carnal nature, as in 1John 1:8.  We know that we
sin and the reason is that we still have the Adamic Nature – the
carnal mind.  

Read our book on
The Two Natures to get a better understanding
of the Adamic Nature and the spirit nature in a Christian.  One is
limited in his understanding of the scriptures unless he has a good
grasp of the Two Natures of the Christian.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Christ taught us to pray daily for the forgiveness of our
trespasses.  Therefore, we can conclude that Christ understood the
deceitfulness of sin.  Indeed, God provided the Atonement Sin
Offering just for our sins of ignorance – only one category of
wrongdoing.  Be sure to read our book,
Why Atonement.

Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also
forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses.

Hebrews 9:7 But into the second [went] the high priest alone once every
year (on the day of atonement), not without blood, which he offered for
himself, and [for] the errors (sins committed in ignorance) of the people:
Our Righteous Nature
However, when John speaks of our righteous nature, as in 1John 3:
the spirit mind.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to put on the new man or as
expressed in the RSV: put on the new nature.  In other words,
represent the new man rather than an image of the old man.  Every
day we have the opportunity to represent either God through the
holy spirit or Satan through the carnal nature.  Paul informs us that
we need to project the holy man – to not allow the Adamic nature
to frame our thoughts and actions; for we are preparing a mind to
indwell our spirit body at the resurrection.  Furthermore, one who
continually uses the Adamic Nature will not inherit eternal life.

Ephesians 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created
in righteousness and true holiness.

Ephesians 4:24 and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God
in true righteousness and holiness.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these;
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife,
seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I
tell you before, as I have also told you in time past,
that they which do such
things shall not inherit the kingdom of God
Old Man/New Man
Paul uses two different metaphors to explain what happens to the
old man in one who becomes a Christian.  The old man dies by the
new man – the born again man.

Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the
body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that
like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even
so we also should walk in newness of life.

Now it is a foregone conclusion that if the old man died, we must be
born again to a new life or cease to exist.  Keep in mind that we are
speaking symbolically.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee,
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

We are literally born again – mentally – when we receive the holy
spirit following baptism for the remission of our old sins: Read our
book on the
Old Covenant Sacrifices.  Our old sins are that body of
sin, referred to in Romans 6:6, and washed away in baptism –
removed by Christ’s sacrifice – symbolized in the Sin Offering
burned outside the camp.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

2Peter 1:9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off,
and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Hebrews 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with
his own blood, suffered without the gate
The New Man Does Not Commit Sin
Now we have enough background to understand that when the
Apostle John says,
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin he is
speaking of the New Man.  God’s spirit will not lead us to sin.  
Therefore, the New Man does not sin.  We commit all sin with the
carnal mind – the Adamic Nature – and although the Old Man, the
body of sin, is dead – the old nature does not die with it.  
Therefore, when we use our carnal mind we sin.  The New Man is
not our physical body.  The New Man consists of our unique spirit
and the holy spirit, which resides in our physical body.

To put it another way, when we sin after receipt of the holy spirit
we do so with our human nature, not God’s nature.  Therefore, the
born-again man does not sin:
for his (God’s) seed (the holy spirit)
abides in him.
 In other words, the new nature does not sin for it
represents Christ.  If one who has the holy spirit sins, he does so
with the carnal nature: for sin is of the devil and righteousness is of
Christ.  It is important that we not defame the truth by allowing
our Adamic Nature get the better of us.

1John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from
the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he
might destroy the works of the devil.

Romans 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
A Mistranslation!
Up to this point, we can understand what John is telling us.  
However, his next phrase is where the difficulty begins:
and he
cannot sin
.  If this phrase were a correct translation of the Greek,
we would indeed have a contradiction of the scriptures; for John is
no longer speaking only of the born-again man, he is here speaking
of the converted person who has two natures and can indeed sin
when he reverts to the carnal mind for his thinking.

The KJV incorrectly translates the Greek for the term “cannot”.  
The word <cannot> in this verse, is made up of two Greek words:
<3756> = “not” and <1410> = “the ability to”.  When correctly
translated, we have the following phrase: “the ability to not”.  In
other words, what John tells us is that the holy spirit gives us the
ability to refrain from sinning!  This is not to say that we do not
sin.  As long as we have our human nature, we are tempted to sin
and give over to sin in our weakness, as John had already
explained in an earlier part of this same epistle.  

If we divide the word <cannot> into two words and emphasize <not
sin> we obtain the proper understanding: “and he can
Perhaps this was the intention of the KJV translators and the
phrase has become corrupted over the years.  However, as it
stands today, it is incorrect.

The very reason that God gives us the holy spirit at baptism is so
that we can refrain from sinning and build righteous character; and
John gives us a definite statement to corroborate this in 1John 3:9
when we properly translate the Greek.

To finish John’s statement:
because he is born of God.  The pronoun
<he> in this phrase refers to the converted person – the born again
person who has God’s holy spirit in him.
A False Doctrine Based on an Incorrect Translation
It is regrettable that some believe that “born again” refers to birth
at the resurrection.  This doctrine finds its one and only basis on the
incorrect translation of the phrase “he cannot sin” in 1John 3:9.  

The doctrine that one’s spirit-conception takes place now, in this
life, and that his spirit-birth takes place at the resurrection has its
own contradictions.  The authors of the New Testament refer to
Christians as babes outside the womb who need milk, but should
grow up into an adult person.  This concept agrees with the
doctrine that a converted person is born again, when he receives
the holy spirit.

Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need
that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of
God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk [is] unskilful in the word of righteousness:
for he is a babe.

Isaiah 28:9  Whom shall he teach knowledge?  And whom shall he make to
understand doctrine?  [Them that are] weaned from the milk, [and] drawn
from the breasts.

1Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye
may grow thereby:

On the other hand, we have no figures of speech referring to
Christians as still inside the womb.  Had those who conceived this
doctrine (That one is born again at the resurrection) checked the
Greek, they would have known that the KJV translation of 1John 3:
9 was incorrect and they would have never given life to this false
doctrine.  As it stands, many believe this doctrine based on an
incorrect translation of the phrase “he cannot sin”.  

This doctrine clouds the significance of the two natures in the
Christian and sets one up to allow the “Church” (some
organization) to come between him and God.  In other words,
according to this doctrine, the church (organization) is the womb
and one cannot live outside the “womb”.  Therefore, he is doomed,
if he leaves the organization.  In other words, such organization is
Mother Church just like the Roman Church.  The bible teaches no
such doctrine.

1John 3:9 One who is born of God (the born-again man) does not commit
sin (the old nature leads one to sin; the nature of the newborn man does not
lead one to sin); for His (God’s) seed (the holy spirit) abides in him and he
has the ability to refrain from sinning because he is born of God (has God’s
nature – the holy spirit).
The Apostle Paul's Perspective
Romans 7:20 Now if I (with the old nature) do that I would not (sin), it is no
more I (the born again or new man) that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

In other words, a Christian has two natures and continually
struggles against sin.  

Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law
of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my

A Christian has the ability to refrain from sinning by means of the
holy spirit within him.  If this were not so, Paul would not have
admonished us to bring every thought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ.  We have the ability to refrain from sinning, if
we will use it!

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that
exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity
every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Suggested Reading:

The Two Natures

Why Atonement?

The Old Covenant Sacrifices

Questions & Answers