So far we’ve seen Matthew and Paul forge links between the concept of lawlessness (ἀνομία) and allegiance with the devil. Now we’ll look at the singular occurrence of the word in 1 John 3:4 and see how the wider NT usage helps us makes sense of what John means here.
In 1 John 3:4-10, John seems to be writing in parallel structure:
|v4: Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.||v8a: Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.|
|v5: You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.||v8b: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.|
|v6: No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.||v9: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.|
There seem to be strong parallels between the two sides of the table. If that is the case, then John too (as well as Matthew and Paul) couples lawlessness (v4) with being off the devil (v8a). To translate ἀνομία as “breaking the law” does not make much sense in 1 John, especially in this context.
Understanding sin as alignment with Satan, however, makes more sense of the rest of these verses also. If we understand more accurately the seriousness of sin, that sin is aligning ourselves with Satan, becoming Christ’s enemy, then we can better understand why John takes such a harsh view on sin in the life of a believer. Christians and sin are/ought to be mutually exclusive because Christ and the Devil are mutually exclusive just as light and darkness are (cf. 2 Cor 6:14).
There is much more thinking and investigating to do on this subject. But I think these last three posts have shown that there is more to the word ἀνομία than simply “breaking the law”.