Bible Study

1 John Bible Study, Day 15: Destroying the Work of the Devil

Today’s passage: 1 John 3:6–10

Focus verse: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)

Our passage for the day is one that troubles most people. It talks about sin. John writes that when Jesus lives in us, we won’t keep on sinning. If we know him, we can’t. By doing what is right, we prove we’re a child of God.

But if we don’t do what’s right, we’re not his children.

Ouch! That’s convicting.

Some well-intentioned teachers try to explain this verse away. They say it doesn’t mean all sin. Instead, it refers to habitual sin or intentional sin.

Yet even with these rationalizations, we may still have a reason to worry. But John doesn’t give us those explanations. He says sin, period. Therefore, it’s wrong to try to reinterpret this passage through our perspective or what we wish it said.

Paul, however, gives us some help. He says we are spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). That is, we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.

When we repent of our wrongdoing (our sin) to follow Jesus, our spirit is immediately and permanently made sinless.

The spirit part of us is sanctified—that is, made right and set apart as holy—as soon as we believe in Jesus as our Savior. Theologians call this positional sanctification. 

Yet this doesn’t address our soul and our body.

Our soul—comprising our mind, will, and emotions—begins to align with our sanctified spirit. This is a process of ongoing sanctification. 

Our body is the last to move toward the sinless condition of our spirit. This is a lifetime process, but through God’s grace we can inch closer to it each day.

Tucked in the middle of this passage, however, is the key to this issue of sin. John reminds us that Jesus—the Son of God—came to destroy the work of the devil. Jesus came to overcome sin.

He sets this in motion when he dies on the cross as the ultimate sin sacrifice. As a result, he takes away our sins—past, present, and future—to make us right with Father God. This is the first phase of destroying the devil’s work.

Yet it won’t become final until we reach the end of time when Satan is tossed into the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:10) so that God can usher in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

The work of Jesus to defeat Satan began two thousand years ago, yet it remains in process today. So too is our sanctification, our moving from a sinful life to a sinless future. God will complete this for us, just as he will one day conclusively deal with the devil. 

God will sanctify us through and through (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

John later writes that when we acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son, he lives in us and we in him (1 John 4:15). John doesn’t mention sin in this verse. This is because through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, sin no longer needs to be an issue for us.


  1. What is your view of sin?
  2. How can we better deal with our struggle with habitual or intentional sins?
  3. How should we let God’s Word inform our perspective about sin? 
  4. What are we doing to allow the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit move us toward sinlessness?
  5. What does sanctification mean to you?

Discover more about sanctification in John 17:17–19, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and 1 Peter 1:1–2.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

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Discover practical, insightful, and encouraging truths in Love One Another, a devotional Bible study to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments: To love God and to love others.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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