by Mike Ratliff
18 Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, ἀλλʼ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ. 1 John 5:18 (NA28)
18 We know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin, but the one having been born of God, he keeps him and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In 1 John 5:18 (above), in the best manuscripts, the word I translated as “him” after the word “keeps” is the Greek noun αὐτὸν or auton, a personal pronoun, which is the Accusative, Singular, Masculine case of αὐτός or autos, “he, she, it, self, same.”
However, in the Textus Receptus, 1 John 5:18 reads as follows:
Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει ἀλλ᾽ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἐαυτὸν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ
The King James Bible translates this as. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
The best Greek manuscripts do not render v18 as the TR does. Did you see the difference between the two texts? The TR has the Greek reflexive pronoun ἐαυτὸν, “himself, herself, itself,” in place of αὐτὸν. This confuses the reading of the text. Is God protecting or keeping the Christian or is the Christian doing it ”himself?” No, God is keeping or protecting those born of Christ, to keep them from the evil one, that he may not touch them, what can we do in and of ourselves?
18 Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, ἀλλʼ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ. 19 οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμεν καὶ ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται. 20 οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει καὶ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν ἵνα γινώσκωμεν τὸν ἀληθινόν, καὶ ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος.
21 Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων. 1 John 5:18-21 (NA28)
18 We know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin, but the one having been born of God, he keeps him and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God and the whole world lies under the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding that we may know the true one, and we are in the true one, even in his son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little Children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:18-21 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
I did not italicize my translation because I wanted you to see the word “he” italicized so that you would understand that it is not in the Greek text, but I added it to make my translation more readable or understandable. This is based on the Greek grammar not being carried over in a direct word for word translation into English.
Right off the bat, John says, “we know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin…” This is a point he has been making all through the Epistle of 1 John, here he explains why. Notice, he does not say we do not sin, but that we do not sin as the unregenerate do, that is, continuously, or as a way of life. We are convicted of our sins and God draws into repentance, et cetera. In any case, what is going on there is that God is keeping or guarding each of us. This Greek word, τηρεῖ or tērei is the Present, Indicative, Active case of τηρέω or tēreō, “to keep watch upon, guard.” The Present, Indicative, Active tells us that this is action that is taking place right now and the subject of the sentence is doing the action. This in itself should tell us who is guarding believers, God or themselves. The “evil one” is the devil and all in Christ are guarded that he not “touch” them. What is this?
Bill Mounce says in his commentary: (MED) Jesus is involved in keeping his children safe from the evil one (1 Jn. 5:18) and in keeping a place in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). By contrast, God did not “spare” the wicked angels when they sinned but cast them out (2 Pet. 2:4).
Also, in reference to οὐχ ἅπτεται, which I translated as “does not touch” in v18, Bill Mounce says: (MED) haptō can also mean “to cling to, take hold of something.” After his resurrection Jesus commands Mary not to “cling to” him, for he had not yet ascended to the Father (Jn. 20:17). Although haptō here could mean simply “touch,” the context implies a stronger physical action.
In other words, we are being guarded by God from Satan making a “strong physical contact or action” against us.
In v19 John makes a statement that is most certainly not politically correct. Christians belong to God. There are only two types of people in the world, children of God and children of Satan. Either a person belongs to God through Christ or to the evil world system that is Satan’s domain. Since the whole world belongs to Satan, Christians should avoid its contamination.
It is as we study God’s Word and we come across passages like this that the Holy Spirit will work to transform us (Romans 12:1-2), to make us more Christlike as we submit to our Lord Jesus as living sacrifices. In this we will examine ourselves and see where we are being worldly and where we are not, where we are being fleshly and where we are not. We must repent of what God shows us. We must ask ourselves if, like Job being accused by Satan, if we love God because of His blessings or because of that unconditional love and grace that none of us deserve.
Carefully read v20. Look what we have, those of us who are in Jesus Christ. Those who are not in Christ cannot conceive of this at all. To know God who is true, to be in him who is true and to be in his son Jesus Christ—this is utterly amazing! As John said, this is the true God and eternal life. This is why we fight so hard to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. All who attack this doctrine–have you noticed–also attack the deity of Christ or, at least, somehow, try to diminish his glory. That Jesus Christ is the true God is the doctrinal foundation out of which comes love and obedience.
Finally, in v21 we have the contrast between what is true and what is false. If you look carefully at the shallow versions of so-called Christianity in our time, no matter what they call themselves, you will find that their error is based in one or more false teachings from their false teachers they follow. Their false beliefs and practices are the idols from which we are to protect ourselves. The world loves these false teachers because they uphold the world’s philosophies as superior to God’s revelation as demonstrated in their perversion of basic Christian teaching (faith, love, and obedience). They look at what we say is truth and call it legalism. Those who are into their legalism say we are into pietism. Those who are man-centered hate the doctrines that say God is Sovereign over all things. No, we simply follow the doctrines taught to us in God’s Word as we obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and keep ourselves from idols. The apostates and heretics are in God’s hands.
I am sure you will find that the closer you get to walking before the Lord with fear and trembling, turning from evil, the very last thing you will do is act like the world even when treated shabbily by another professing Christian who hates your doctrine. I experience this nearly every day.
Soli Deo Gloria!