Nov 30

Some make a plea that sin is consistent in the life of a Christian by claiming that the words continuous, constantly, habitual, or practice must be added to Greek verbs or participles that are in the present tense.

For example, 1Joh 3:8 says “he that committeth sin is of the devil” (KJV). They would translate this as “he that continuously committeth sin is of the devil” (Modified). The KJV translation would be viewed as a one-time sin and then a person would be of the devil. The modified translation would be viewed that only a person who continuously commits sin would be of the devil.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and our English versions of the New Testament were translated from Greek to English. Some will hold that because the Greek word ποιῶν (poiōn) in 1Joh 3:8 that is translated “committeth” is in the present tense,  this means you must continuously commit sin for a period of time before you are deemed to be of the devil.

If you ask them how long a person must commit sin before it would be considered continuous, most would tell you only the Lord knows, thus leaving it ambiguous.

This claim leaves us with the following questions. Do you have to commit sin continuously before you are a servant of sin (Joh 8:34)? Must you walk in darkness for a long period of time before you lie when you say you have fellowship with God (1Joh 1:6)? Do you have to practice denying that Jesus is the Christ before you are a liar (1Joh 2:22)? Do you have to habitually hate your brother before you are a liar (1Joh 4:20)?

In these four above scriptures, the English verbs in bold are translated from a Greek verb or participle that is in the present tense. While Greek scholars will all tell you that the present tense of Greek verbs or participles denotes continuous action or action in progress, we need to look to the Bible to see what these scriptures mean.

There clearly is a place to look at the Greek when we are interpreting what different scriptures mean. But when you have a difference of opinion, both sides can digress to getting support from the Greek scholars that support their point of view, and many times this leaves neither side any further ahead.

The average Christian does not have enough of a foundational understanding of Greek to be able to really tell which Greek scholar is right is wrong. Primarily, we should be looking to God for direction. We have the promises of the Scripture that the Spirit of God will guide us into all truth (Joh 16:13) and that if we do his will we “shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God” (Joh 7:17).

In the case we are looking at, one Greek scholar will say if the Greek verb or participle is in the present tense it has to mean continuously or habitually, and the other will say they can be translated continuously but they also can mean a single action and should also be defined by context, by considering the definition of the Greek word, and unanimity of scriptures.

There is a very simple answer for this seemingly difficult question. All we have to do is look at scriptures where the Greek verbs or participles are in present tense and have to do with keeping God’s commands, and see what the results are of also changing those scriptures to to read continuous.

We hear the plea for ‘continuous’, ‘constant’, and ”habitually when it comes to scriptures that imply that those that break God commandments are not Christians. But I have yet to find these same people pleading for continuous tense when it comes to scripture that discuss Christians keeping God’s commandments. Let me explain by example so you can see what I mean.

In 1Joh 2:29 it says “every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (KJV). In this scripture the Greek participle that is translated “doeth” is ποιῶν (poiōn) and is in the Greek present tense. If we follow the same example of those that make allowances for sin by translating 1Joh 3:8 to “he that continuously committeth sin is of the devil” (Modified) we will also have to translate 1Joh 2:29 as “every one that continuously doeth righteousness is born of him” (Modified).

If you choose to add the word continuously because the Greek verb or participle is in the present tense in one scripture, you will have to do it to all present-tense Greek verbs or participles, or prove yourself to be biased.

When you apply this principle to both scriptures, they no longer are consistent. So now we have “every one that continuously doeth righteousness is born of him” (1Joh 2:29) which literally means that those that are born of God will continuously do righteousness. So in this scripture just one sin and the person would no longer be doing righteousness continuously.

Let us compare that to 1Joh 3:8 where those who hold that intermittent sinning is compatible with being born again, and see what happens when the word continuously is added. “He that continuously committeth sin is of the devil” (1Joh 3:8) now means that only when a person is continuously disobedient they are of the devil. If they commit sin intermittently they are not continuously disobedient and therefore they are not of the devil.

The addition of the word “continuously” to both of these scriptures has created an inconsistency that was not there before. One scripture now means “we know those that are born of him will continuously do righteous” and the other scripture means ” he that is continuously disobedient is of the devil”.

But when you remove the continuously aspect from both scriptures they become consistent with each other. “Ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” 1Joh 2:29 and “He that committeth sin is of the devil” 1Joh 3:8.

While those who have been confused by the teaching that all Christians will intermittently sin may plead foul and try to find some way to make an excuse for the sin they have been taught they must commit, those that are honest will refuse to pull the Word of God down to their level of living and instead will look to God for grace that will make them “free from sin” (Rom 6:18).

Advanced Study:
The following is a list of scriptures in the first letter of John where the Greek verb or participle is in the present tense. To be consistent with adding continuously to 1Joh 3:8 you would have to add ‘continuously’ to all these scriptures or show that you are biased. In each of these scriptures the English verb is linked to a Greek-English Interlinear where you can hover over the Greek verb or participle, and a pop-up will show the parsing of the Greek word so you can see that it is in present tense.

1Jn 2:5 But whoso [continuously] keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
1Jn 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that [continuously] doeth righteousness is born of him.
1Jn 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that [continuously] doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
1Jn 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we [continuously] keep his commandments, and [continuously] do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
1Jn 3:24 And he that [continuously] keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.
1Jn 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that [continuously] loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1Jn 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we [continuously] love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and [continuously] keep his commandments.
1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we [continuously] keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

A Look At Bible Translations
Most Bible versions endeavor in their translation of the scriptures to stay free from translating according to doctrinal beliefs. In the following comparison I will show the Bible versions that have translated 1Joh 3:8 so as to make room for sin in the Christians life, and show if they have translated other present tense Greek in the same way.

Not Implying Continuous Action in 1Joh 3:8:
(ASV) he that doeth sin is of the devil;
(KJV) He that committeth sin is of the devil;
(NIV) He who does what is sinful is of the devil,
(NKJV) He who sins is of the devil,
(NRSV) Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil;
(RSV) He who commits sin is of the devil;
(YLT) he who is doing the sin,

Implying Continuous Action in 1Joh 3:8:
(AMP) [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing]
(NAS77) the one who practices sin is of the devil;
(NASB) the one who practices sin is of the devil;

Implying Continuous Action in the Advanced Study List of Scriptures AMP 1/9, NAS77 2/9, and NASB 2/9:
1Joh 2:29 (NAS77) you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1Joh 2:29 (NASB) you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1Joh 3:7 (AMP) Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous.
1Joh 3:7 (NAS77) Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;
1Joh 3:7 (NASB) Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;

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7 Responses to “Sinning and the Greek Present Tense”

  1. 1. Primitive Christianity Says:

    Greetings, Brother Bob.
    I am glad you exhort folks against the “sin you must” doctrine. Yet, I must say that the above exposition of 1 John 3 is flawed. :-)

    ποιῶν (poiōn) is not used as a verb here. It is a participle (ποιων verb – present active – nominative singular masculine–means a present active verb used as a singular, masculine noun), that is, a verb used as a noun. Its root meaning is “do” in the sense of “practicing”. A literal translation of this verse would be “the one doing sin of the devil is”. “one doing” is a noun phrase, based on the verb do.
    The site you linked to does not do a good job of parsing verbs. For example, it gives the following: “ποιων verb – present active passive – nominative singular masculine”

    A participle cannot be both active and passive at the same time!

    It gives a literal translation as “the practices the sin”. ποιῶν in 1 john 3:8 is not a verb meaning practices. It is a nominative [subject noun], made from the verb which means “to do”.

    As far as the continuous:
    The idea of “keepeth not” being continuous is not correctly rendered “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments continuously, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
    It is better understood as “He that saith, I know him, and he continually keepeth not his commandments , is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

    For example, when Peter sinned and Paul had to rebuke him before all, Peter’s overall testimony was that he consistently lived a godly life. But he did slip and fall on that occasion, and possible at other times. He would not have had to. But he did.

    And even after that one slip, Peter’s testimony was still that he did not “on a continuous basis sin”.
    He did not keep the command of God on that particular occasion, but he was not counted as a “liar”, because his testimony was not that of “on a continuous basis not keeping the commandment”.
    I know that what I am trying to say may sound like I am making an excuse for sin. It is not an excuse for sin, unless one wants it to be.

    A Christian does not have the testimony of “holiness, holiness, sin, holiness, sin, holiness, holiness, holiness, sin, sin, holiness.”
    He has the opportunity to have the testimony of “holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness.”
    He might, if he is not careful, have the testimony of, “holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, sin, heartfelt repentance, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness.”
    And that sin in there will be a regret in his heart for the rest of his days, even though it is forgiven. He desires above all else to glorify God by his life, and sin does not glorify God.

    This whole topic could be a long discussion, but I do not intend that. I think I may smell a bit of “reaction” against the “the sin you must” heresy. :-)

    Peace!
    Mike

  2. 2. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Mike;
    >>>ποιῶν (poiōn) is not used as a verb here. It is a participle (ποιων verb – present active – nominative singular masculine–means a present active verb used as a singular, masculine noun), that is, a verb used as a noun. Its root meaning is “do” in the sense of “practicing”. A literal translation of this verse would be “the one doing sin of the devil is”. “one doing” is a noun phrase, based on the verb do.

    So in that phase ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν are you saying that ἐστίν is the verb? If not where is the verb.

    >>>The site you linked to does not do a good job of parsing verbs. For example, it gives the following: “ποιων verb – present active passive – nominative singular masculine”
    A participle cannot be both active and passive at the same time!

    Perhaps this site is better:
    http://www.zhubert.com/bible?source=greek&verseref=1john+3:8

    What about 1Joh 3:9.
    http://www.zhubert.com/bible?source=greek&verseref=1john+3:9

    πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ

    Would you accept that ποιεῖ is the verb in the above phrase?

    >>>The idea of “keepeth not” being continuous is not correctly rendered “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments continuously, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
    It is better understood as “He that saith, I know him, and he continually keepeth not his commandments , is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

    Ok I will make a change on that one. Thanks!

    >>>For example, when Peter sinned and Paul had to rebuke him before all, Peter’s overall testimony was that he consistently lived a godly life. But he did slip and fall on that occasion, and possible at other times. He would not have had to. But he did.

    I wouldn’t hold that Peter sinned there unless he did what he did willfully knowing what he did was wrong. I know that some hold that he did know what he was doing was wrong but I don’t feel like the text bears that out.

    >>>And even after that one slip, Peter’s testimony was still that he did not “on a continuous basis sin”.
    He did not keep the command of God on that particular occasion, but he was not counted as a “liar”, because his testimony was not that of “on a continuous basis not keeping the commandment”.

    Peter sinned when he denied the Lord at at that time I would hold that you cann’t sin and still be saved.

    >>>A Christian does not have the testimony of “holiness, holiness, sin, holiness, sin, holiness, holiness, holiness, sin, sin, holiness.”

    That is my point and what I am coming against.

    >>>He might, if he is not careful, have the testimony of, “holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, sin, heartfelt repentance, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness, holiness.”

    I agree that that is a possibility but not the Bible standard.

    >>>This whole topic could be a long discussion, but I do not intend that. I think I may smell a bit of “reaction” against the “the sin you must” heresy. :-)

    I don’t think you can smell spiritual things. You can discern or think you discern but spiritual thinks are not uncovered by the 5 senses but on a spiritual level.

  3. 3. Primitive Christianity Says:

    Greetings, Bro. Bob:
    >>So in that phase ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν are you saying that ἐστίν is the verb? If not where is the verb.

    ἐστίν (meaning-”is”) is the verb, not ποιῶν. While ποιῶν is based on the verb ποιῶ (to do), it is made a participle by the addition of the ν at the end.

    The zhubert site seems to be a better quality site for Greek. I like the Biblos site for what it is doing overall, but the Greek section is not quite up to par.

    >>> πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ
    Would you accept that ποιεῖ is the verb in the above phrase?

    Here ποιεῖ is used as a verb, not a participle. Literally this would be: All the ones who have been generated from God do not do (practice) sin. I do not know if you can read Greek or not, but notice the spelling difference between ποιῶν Participle, and ποιεῖ Verb.

    On the distinction between “mistakes” and “willful sins”, “imputed sins” vs “unimputed sins”, etc, I will not detail that, as it is a rather long discussion. Basically, I call all sin, “sin”. Those sins that we do ignorantly are still “sins”, even though they are not imputed to our account. For example, the Bible says, “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” It does not say, “mistakes are not imputed when there is no law.” However, what too many people do who explain these verses similar to me, is take a light approach to willful sin, and say like one man told me, “Since we all sin (meaning even sins of ignorance) every day, what is the big deal if every now and then I sin willfully?” Well, the “big deal” is that sins of ignorance are not imputed until they are revealed to us, but willful sin is imputed immediately. Sins of ignorance are “not unto death” (do not cause spiritual death), but premeditated sins are unto death (separation from God).

    On the other hand, the danger of not calling sins of ignorance to be sin, is that people can get a bit high-minded thinking they are sin-free, when the reality is that they have things in their life that are sin, but they have not yet grown enough spiritually to recognize it. This often happens in areas of pride, where we have pride about something in our life, maybe our education, our gifts, or etc, and do not realize it as pride for a while. One day, God reveals it to us, and “Bang!”, that sin of ignorance is now a willful sin if we continue in it.

    I think of what happened with a COGR preacher who told someone once that he had not sinned one time since he had been saved 14 years ago. This causes folks to scorn the “sinlessness” doctrine, since they realize that none of us are born again with a perfect understanding of God’s will. So in reaction, these folks tend to reject any talk of living above sin, because they see those professing “sinlessness” as having the same faults as everyone else, only not calling them sins of ignorance.
    Well, I do not intend to get into a detailed discussion of the matter, so I will stop. :-)

    >>>I don’t think you can smell spiritual things. You can discern or think you discern but spiritual thinks are not uncovered by the 5 senses but on a spiritual level.

    This is called “figures of speech”, bro. :-)

  4. 4. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Mike;
    >>>On the distinction between “mistakes” and “willful sins”, “imputed sins” vs “unimputed sins”, etc, I will not detail that, as it is a rather long discussion. Basically, I call all sin, “sin”. Those sins that we do ignorantly are still “sins”, even though they are not imputed to our account. For example, the Bible says, “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” It does not say, “mistakes are not imputed when there is no law.”

    I understand your view and this is not a new thought to me. Personally I think you will have a problem when teaching others that Christians will commit unwillful sins but they should never commit willful sins. I have quoted John Wesley’s view on this point in my article Biblical Definition of Sin which I am sure you have read before.

    “The best of men still need Christ in his priestly office, to atone for their omissions, their short-comings, (as some not improperly speak,) their mistakes in judgment and practice, and their defects of various kinds. For these are all deviations from the perfect law, and consequently need an atonement. Yet that they are not properly sins, we apprehend may appear from the words of St. Paul, “He that loveth, hath fulfilled the law; for love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10.) Now, mistakes, and whatever infirmities necessarily flow from the corruptible state of the body, are noway contrary to love; nor therefore, in the Scripture sense, sin.”

    >>>For example, the Bible says, “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” It does not say, “mistakes are not imputed when there is no law.”

    If someone is in adultery through remarriage and is ignorant that according to the Bible it is adultery that is not a mistake that is sin but it is not imputed. Sin that is not imputed and not known is not sin to the person.

    >>>On the other hand, the danger of not calling sins of ignorance to be sin, is that people can get a bit high-minded thinking they are sin-free, when the reality is that they have things in their life that are sin, but they have not yet grown enough spiritually to recognize it.

    The grace of God that can keep us free from willful sin can keep us from being high-minded about the unmerited favor God has done for us unprofitable servants.

    >>>I think of what happened with a COGR preacher who told someone once that he had not sinned one time since he had been saved 14 years ago. This causes folks to scorn the “sinlessness” doctrine, since they realize that none of us are born again with a perfect understanding of God’s will.

    Well I am not going to stand up for any of the COGR preachers but if the “free from sin” (Rom 6:18) teaching is taught right people will clearly understand that they are not free from errors, faults, mistakes in opinion and actions, and unknown transgressions of God’s perfect law.

    Given the deplorable state of Christianity when we share the “free from sin” (Rom 6:18) teaching we need to clarity what Paul meant by sin, that what we are is only by God’s grace, and add that we have many needs.

    I have cringed at some of the testimonies I have heard in the COGR meetings that talk about things like how many days they have free from sin and say little about Christ or their deep need from him. While I am not going to judge the motives of these dear souls I think they need some instruction on how to lift of Christ and point people to him instead of self, their ministers, and their sect. But hey, that is part of the bad fruit of the Sect OTVC (one true visible church) teaching.

  5. 5. Pete Says:

    This stuff is way too deep for me guys but I wanted to put my two cents in here. One one hand, I get chatised from those that preach we must be absolutely perfect and yet on the other hand I am branded a legalist, one that says we must obey God to enter heaven. I am happy to be such a legalist.

    God has helped me understand this by thinking of wickedness versus weakness. We must repent of all wickedness, that is what turning to God means. But we still have a fleshly body and on occasion may stumble like Peter did. When we confess that, we are cleansed, purified anew, our garments are pure white. God knows our hearts and where the line of dileneation is that separates unrepentant wickedness from a weakness, only He knows. If we take pleasure in our sins (not instantly convicted of it and seek forgiveness), it is more than not wickedness that requires true repentance. Keep of the good work for the kingdom. God Bless.

  6. 6. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Peter,

    Those that hold to sin-you-must are quick to accuse God’s children of legalism. Sin-you-must people seem to want to be lawless, with out law. The New Testament is very clear that we are under the perfect law of liberty or the law of Christ.

    While the Bible makes room for repentance from sinning, sinning willfully or knowingly is far below the New Testament standard of even a babe in Christ.

  7. 7. Pete Says:

    Bob, True words of wisdom indeed. God has shown you the same truth he has shown me. I look forward to reading more of your work in His service. God Bless

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