That Ye Sin Not

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” —I John 2:1

SIN IS THE transgression of divine law—the thinking, speaking, or doing of things that are contrary to God’s will. The daily chief concern of every Christian should be that his thoughts, words, and actions be wholly pleasing to the Lord. There is no middle ground, no stopping halfway on the road to this goal of perfection, feeling that we have done the best we can. The standard is perfection, to which we should ever strive to attain.

When the apostle wrote the words of our theme text, his object was to help every reader of his epistle live without sin. Every Christian has an individual responsibility in controlling himself, and a wonderful privilege also to help others. We are not to be judges of each other, but to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” (Heb. 10:24) John’s epistle is a good example of exhortation—‘that ye sin not’. That is to say: “My object in writing is to encourage you to greater diligence in the doing of God’s will.”

We cannot write inspired messages to the church, but we can all keep in mind the privilege we have of encouraging others to greater faithfulness. Our example, both in word and deed, should help fellow Christians, rather than hinder them. We should always be encouraging rather than discouraging. If we are living up to our privileges, every Christian who crosses our pathway will feel like trying just a little harder as a result of the encouragement received from us.

But there is a possibility of discouraging fellow travelers in the narrow way when we mean to encourage them. We cannot make the standard too high, nor can we make the narrow way too narrow, for the Lord has already set the standard of perfection, and determined the narrowness of the way. It would be presumption for any Christian to change what has been divinely decreed. What we can do, and should do, however, is to follow the method of the apostle, by reminding those whom we seek to help that ‘if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father’.

This is a good illustration of true spiritual balance! No member of the fallen race can live without sin, although as Christians we should strive to do so. We should strive just as earnestly and untiringly as though we believed we could finally reach that standard of actual perfection in the flesh. We should not only do this ourselves, but should exhort others to do the same. At the same time we are Scripturally warranted in taking comfort from the fact that when we fail we are not cut off from divine favor, but have an advocate with the Father.

The fact that an advocate has been provided, through whom we can approach the throne of heavenly grace, assures us that we will obtain forgiveness. This should not be used as an excuse for not ‘keeping the body under’ control. It is a wondrous provision of divine grace to encourage us—not to excuse us for lack of diligence. We are not to “continue in sin, that grace may abound.” (Rom. 6:1) We are to continue striving against sin, assured that when we unavoidably fail, it will not mean defeat, but that the Lord is judging us upon the basis of our heart intentions, and covering the blemishes of our flesh under the precious blood of Christ. God’s grace should encourage us to great efforts to sin not.


“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23) The ‘heart’ here stands for our real and innermost desires, our affections. Our striving against sin must be from the heart. It is not sufficient that we acknowledge sin by our words, and profess to be struggling against it; that would be merely ‘lip service’, while secretly we would be in sympathy with that which we profess to condemn.

The Lord is never deceived by a hypocritical attitude of this kind. Those who can judge only from the outward appearance might be deceived; they might consider us to be ‘noble characters’, but He who looketh upon the heart would know that our righteousness is only an outward sham, a pretense. In our striving against sin, let us make sure that our hearts are pure, that we are really out of sympathy with everything that is contrary to the Lord’s will. A good test of our heart condition is to note our feelings when we come short of the perfect standard. Are we sorry only because we have failed, or is the sin really distasteful to us, because, at heart, we are out of harmony with it?

A child might be sorry for stealing candy because of the punishment involved, but still love the candy. Is the sin against which we strive a sweet morsel which we regretfully give up because we feel we must, or are we at heart so in tune with the divine will that we have come to despise that which the Lord condemns?

For example, God’s will is that we love our enemies. Not to love our enemies, therefore, would be sin. If we love our enemies only in the sense that we refrain, with a protest, from doing them injury, while inwardly wishing we could get even with them, it means that our heart condition is wrong. If this be the case, we should seek to purify our hearts, to cleanse therefrom every root of bitterness, that we may be able to love our enemies as God would have us love them.

But heart purification is not possible without the Lord’s help. The psalmist realized this, and so he prayed, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (Ps. 19:12) However, when we ask the Lord to cleanse us, we are not to sit back, doing nothing about it ourselves, waiting for him to miraculously remove our sins. God has provided the means for heart-cleansing, and we need to use the provisions he has made, if our prayers are to be answered.

God’ s Word is one of the divine provisions for heart-cleansing. David says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”—Ps. 19:7-9

From this we see the need of diligently studying the Word, not with the motive of learning a lot of things, but to discern the Lord’s will, and to be inspired to do it. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God,” Paul exhorted. (II Tim. 2:15) Bible study with any other motive is a waste of time; but to study with this right motive, determined that we will conform to the divine will as it is discerned, is certain to have a cleansing effect in our hearts and lives. Our prayers for heart-cleansing and our study of the Word will work together toward the end desired.


David speaks of the ‘judgments of the Lord’. These judgments seem to be akin to what the apostle speaks of as the “chastening” of the Lord. (Heb. 12:7) These are manifested largely, we believe, in the divine providences which surround the Christian life. We are not to think of these judgments, or chastenings, too much from the standpoint of punishments for doing wrong. They are intended as corrective punishments, disciplinary measures, to help us in our struggle to bring every thought, word, and deed into conformity with the divine will.

The apostle emphasizes that it is “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” and that if we are without ‘chastisements’, we are not true sons. (Heb. 12:6,8) If chastenings were merely for wayward sons, then the apostle would hardly emphasize the Lord’s special love for those whom he chastises. As long as we are in the flesh, and the Lord is dealing with us, we will need all the disciplinary experiences his wisdom sees best to permit. In addition to the power of his Word in the lives of the humble, the Lord surrounds us with his providences. Some of them are sweet, others are bitter, but they are all for our good. If we view them prayerfully, in the light of his Word; they will teach us valuable lessons to help us that we sin not.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |