1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:1-10)
Before we begin the main part of the message today I would like to review for a few minutes what we had previously covered in 1 John. Here in John’s first epistle, he is writing from personal experience so that we would know that he is writing with great authority. John says that the Word of Life has come to earth incarnate in human flesh, and has brought eternal life to those who believe. It is the message of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ. As some of you will recall, we highlighted that Jesus Christ has always existed – from the beginning. John reminds readers of their first encounter with Jesus Christ and the gospel He preached. We also discussed that Jesus Christ absolutely proved who He is – God incarnate in human flesh. God used the very senses He created in us to prove that He was physically very real.
We also discussed that Jesus Christ has revealed who He is – the Word of Life. With all the evidence and convictive assurance that John and the apostles had of Jesus’ presence in this world, we can confidently be assured that Jesus Christ is the Word of Life. We discussed one of the reasons John wrote this epistle—to proclaim the gospel. However, the proclamation of the Word of Life is not an end in itself; its immediate purpose is fellowship and the ultimate purpose is joy. The purpose of the proclamation of the gospel is stated in terms not of salvation but of fellowship. Yet, properly understood, this is the meaning of salvation in its widest embrace, including reconciliation to God in Christ, holiness of life, and incorporation into the Church. The foundation of all fellowship is our relationship with God. We also discussed how fellowship is about communion with the key idea being that we possess things in common, which results in common ground for communion.
The body of Christ is to work in fellowship with each other to maximize the impact that God intended. The health of the church body, its witness, and its testimony are dependent on all members faithfully ministering to one another through fellowship. The church should be the personification of fellowship. Technically, no Christian is at any time out of fellowship with God since the relationship between the believer and God is permanent and is totally dependent on God. When a Christian is violating some of the fellowship standards, the relationship of fellowship continues but is no longer joyful.
John summarizes the Lord’s teaching according to the emphasis he gives to it in his own Gospel. ‘The Word of Life,’ which starts John’s gospel, which is his proclamation, can be condensed into a single great affirmation God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. John’s statement is absolute and undeniable. Scripture reveals two fundamental principles that flow from the basic truth that God is light. First, light represents the truth of God, as embodied in His Word. The light and life of God are inherently connected to and characterized by truth. Second, Scripture also links light with virtue, moral conduct and righteousness. Those two essential properties of divine light and life are crucial in distinguishing genuine saving faith from a counterfeit faith. If we profess to possess the light and to dwell in it—thus to have received eternal life—we will show evidence of spiritual life by our devotion both to truth and to righteousness. However, the effect of the light is not only to make people see, but to enable them to walk – having right conduct, not just clear vision. Light is also self-revealing thus God’s Light reveals the darkness of my heart, and the sin in my life. God’s Light cleanses us and heals us from the impurities of sin.
We briefly discussed darkness. Darkness is actually more than a negation of light. It is not just the opposite of light. It is actually hostile to light. The light and holiness of God are in direct conflict with the evil darkness and chaos of the world. Thus, sin burns within the believer because it is trying to extinguish the light. If we say we have fellowship, we have accepted God’s perfect gift of salvation – Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Since “God is light,” it follows that a Christian cannot truly claim communion with Him while living in the darkness. John knew, as do we, that “Christians” sometimes feign spirituality while engaging in numerous acts of disobedience. In fact, false claims to fellowship with God have been a tragic reality throughout the history of the Church.
False teachers in John’s time, claimed to be enlightened and to have fellowship with Christ, but their walking in darkness refuted such claims and demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. False teachers were as great a concern then as they are today, but false professors are even more concerning. These consist of those who ignore their sin as if it were not a reality to them. They claim to have fellowship with God; however, that claim is meaningless if one walks in the darkness. The issue is whether you are walking the walk; not if you are talking the talk.
Believers possess God’s life and have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, they cannot ignore the existence of personal iniquity and walk in darkness. No matter what people claim to be, the genuineness of their faith can always be seen in their life by the love of truth and righteousness. To profess one thing and live in contradiction to it is to “lie” and “not practice the truth.” Therefore, we not only contradict the truth in our words, but deny it by our inconsistent lives. There are a lot of people “claiming” to have fellowship with God, but in reality are living as they please. If you are going to walk with God, you are going to be walking in the light. And if there is habitual sin in your life, you are not walking with Him in the light.
John says, “If you are a child of God, and you sin—and you see it in the light of the Word of God, realizing the need for cleansing, you have not lost your salvation. You have lost the joy of fellowship and communion with God, and you cannot regain complete joy with God until you are cleansed.” We are to continually repent and ask Christ forgiveness for our sin so that our joy will be made complete.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
“If we say that we have no sin”
John refutes another claim by the heretics and false teachers of the time – namely that they are without sin, that they are ‘sinless.’ Not only did the false teachers walk in darkness, as highlighted in verse 6, but now they are going so far as to deny totally the existence of a sin nature in their lives.
Their first claim at least appeared to concede the existence of sin, while denying that it had the effect of alienating the sinner from God. Now they are totally denying that sin exists at all. However, if we never admit to being a sinner, there would be no need of salvation.
Not only did the false teachers make false claims to fellowship and disregard sin (v. 6), they are also characterized by deceit regarding sinlessness. The Bible clearly says that all have sinned and that there is none righteous. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10–23)
Heretics/false teachers cannot benefit from the cleansing effects of the blood of Jesus because they claim to be without sin. The heretics are now saying that, whatever their outward conduct may be, there is no sin inherent in their nature. John totally rejects this blasphemous teaching. John knows that sin is a spiritual reality in a fallen world. He addresses this often in his gospel. Here is 1 John 1:8, there is a rejection of all individual moral responsibility for sin. False teachers and their followers claimed to have no sin. This claim is more self-righteous and even more sinister than their original stance on ignoring their sin as we have previously discussed.
Anyone who claims to have reached a “higher spiritual plane,” where sin no longer exists in their lives, has absolutely and completely misunderstand their condition and the Holy Spirit’s work of progressive sanctification. The confession of sins is an absolute necessary consequence of “walking in the light” as highlighted in 1 John 1:7. But to confess sin, there must be an acknowledgement of sin. Some of the Gnostics held that since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh, there is no sin in their lives. This is the same illusion with which so-called Christian scientists deceive themselves today.
“we are deceiving ourselves”
Jesus Christ was the only person who could ever claim to be without sin (Hebrews 4:15). All others who make such an outlandish claim are only fooling themselves. It is not until Christians are glorified in heaven that our sanctification process will be complete (Romans 8:19, 23), and then we will be without sin. To claim that we have no sin means that we deceive ourselves. That means we are self-deceived rather than deliberate liars. This is even worse than being a liar. When you get to the place where you say you have no sin in your life, there is no truth in you at all. Not only do we fail to live by the truth (v. 6); we are void of it. For if the truth indwells us we would at some point become aware of our sinfulness. John’s proclamation is just as valid today to those who deny the guilt of sin by seeking to interpret their thoughts and actions solely in terms of physiological, or psychological or social causes.
“We are deceiving ourselves” – this Greek phrase refers to personal, willful rejection of truth. It is not out of ignorance but is a personal decision. The fact that we are not conscious of sin does not mean we are without it. We deceive ourselves and err from the right path by leading ourselves astray. But, we cannot deceive God. Nor do we deceive others who know us well because they see us for who we really are. Our problem is not seeing ourselves for who we really are.
Every Christian can identify with David because he is a prime example of the believer who committed sin but failed to see his sinfulness. He tried to carry on as the Lord’s anointed one without the Lord’s blessing. When Nathan the prophet confronted him, he was indignant at the man who took and killed the other man’s sheep, yet could not see himself in Nathan’s story (2 Samuel 12).
When a believer is experiencing true fellowship with God they may be tempted to think or say that are free from sin; at least for the moment. John warned against this self-deceiving attitude. If we understand the truth that God’s Word teaches about the depravity of the human heart, we know that just because we are not conscious of our sin does not mean that we are free from it. However, if the truth is “in” us as a controlling and motivating influence, this kind of self-deception will not take place. Whether someone claims to be “without sin” for a brief period of time or claims it as a permanent realization, the claim is false.
“the truth is not in us”
The truth is God’s revelation – it is the gospel message. It starts with the fact that God is the only true God. As Jesus was praying in the garden He acknowledges this fact:
1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, 2 even as you gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:1-3)
Here in John’s epistle, he represents the truth both objectively and subjectively. Objectively the truth is found in the person of Christ. He is the Truth, the perfect revelation of God as highlighted in John 8:31-32. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Truth which absolutely exists in and is identified with God was also partially diffused in the world. The Word was in the world, before and after the incarnation. John 1:9-10 says, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Christ came to bear witness of the Truth, and He did through the embodiment of truth in His own person, and by His teaching (John 8:40; 17:17); and by His work carried out by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13).
Subjectively the truth is lodged in man by the Spirit, and communicated to his spirit. John 14:17, “…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” It is the spirit of truth as opposed to the spirit of error (1 John 4:6) which is a spirit of action. God’s true children do the truth (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6). John 3:21 says, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
To have no sin is to have no need of a Savior, which would make the incarnation of Jesus and His death on the cross totally and absolutely needless. Again, anyone who ignores the existence of sin gives clear evidence that the truth is not in them. The way to acceptance by a Holy God is not denial of sin but, to recognize our sin and acceptance of His provision in Christ. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
“If we confess our sins”
The proper Christian attitude to sin is not to deny it but to acknowledge it, admit it, confess it, and then to receive the forgiveness which God has made possible and promises to us. If we confess our sins; acknowledge before God that we are sinners not only by nature (sin) but by practice also (our sins), God will both forgive us our sins and cleanse/purify us from all unrighteousness.
What does it mean to confess our sins? The word confess is from the Greek verb homologeō, meaning “to say the same thing.” Logeō means “to say” and homo means “the same.” We are to say the same thing that God says. When God’s Word says that the thing you did is sin, you are to get over on God’s side and look at it, and say, “You are right, Lord, I say the same thing that you say. It is sin.” Confessing sins is not “saying you’re sorry.” It is agreeing with God that a particular act is sin—and thus taking sides with Him and against yourself. That is what it means to confess your sins. Confession has been and is still one of the greatest needs in the church. Confession is God’s way for us to deal with sin in our own life.
Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admits and forsakes it (Ps 32:3–5; Prov 28:13). Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians, and God continually cleanses those who are confessing (1 Jn 1:7). The word confession is in the PRESENT TENSE, which implies ongoing action. As Believers we need to continue to agree with God that we have violated His holiness (Rom. 3:23).
Confession of sin is absolutely required to enter the Light (justification) and for walking in it (sanctification). This view exists in numerous biblical examples of people being called to repentance and who openly acknowledged their sins to God.
What about the people of Nineveh in Jonah 3:5–8; “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.”
Overwhelmed by a vision of God’s holiness, the prophet Isaiah cried out, in Isaiah 6:5 he exclaims…., “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”
How about David when he took a census and God was angered in 1 Chronicles 21:17: David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”
Let’s consider David’s confession of sin in Psalm 51: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.….”
Paul Tripp says when David prays for a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (v. 10, 11), he’s acknowledging that his struggle runs deeper than just behavior. He’s not only confessing to the physical acts of adultery and murder, but also to the reality of a heart that’s corrupt. He’s confessing that his heart loves personal pleasure more than it loves the Lord. When he talks of God’s desire for a truthful and wise heart (v. 6), he’s confessing to a heart that has craved what was impure and that has loved what was foolish. Instead of being obsessed with temporary and impure pleasures, our heart should be excited with and engaged in the pleasures of God. That is the heart we need – one that cries out to and for God.
The New Testament also includes similar examples of confession. Jesus demanded recognition of sin and a response of repentance for all who desired salvation (Matthew 4:17), even saying that sinners had to repent or perish. Peter and Paul each confessed their sinfulness. There are many other examples of confession of sin but due to limited time, we must move on.
What John is actually saying here about confession is that since believers are forgiven, they will regularly confess their sins. Stated another way, their forgiveness is not because of their ongoing confession, but their ongoing pattern of penitence and confession is because of their forgiveness and transformation. As the Holy Spirit sanctifies believers, He continually produces within them a hatred for sin, which results in penitent hearts and a sincere acknowledgment of their sins. The more believers grow in Christ, the greater their hatred of sin becomes. For example, Paul, one of the most devout and dedicated Christians, at the end of his earthly sanctification, says in 1 Timothy 1:15, he is among the “foremost” of sinners.
However, in spite of John’s straightforward meaning, many throughout history have misinterpreted and misapplied the concept of confession. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, sees confession as the anonymous divulging of sins to a human priest, a fallible man, in a confessional booth. They believe this is a meritorious act, one that earns the confessor forgiveness, if followed by the performance of some penitent ritual (such as repeating a prayer or saying the rosary a certain number of times). Unfortunately this system of forgiveness is based on the good works of confession and penance.
Others view confession as psychologically and emotionally therapeutic—an act that helps people “feel” good about feeling bad, ensuring that they “feel” forgiven and experience healing. Still others teach that the confession in this verse refers only to the moment of salvation, with no regard for subsequent times of acknowledging sin. But if one truly trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior he will regularly confess his sins before God.
Perhaps the most popular and erroneous view of confession is that believers are forgiven of only those sins they confess. If that were correct, it would mean that unconfessed sins remain with believers until the judgment seat of Christ, at which time they will have to give an account for those iniquities. But such is simply not the case. No one will enter heaven with a list of unconfessed sins still hanging over his head, because the finished work of Jesus Christ completely covers all the sins of those who believe.
“He is faithful and righteous”
Faithfulness refers to the fact that God is true to His own nature and promises; keeping faith with Himself and with man. Faithful is applied to God as fulfilling His own promises (Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”). Faithful is applied to God as fulfilling the purpose for which He has called men (1 Thessalonians 5:24 – “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass”). Faithful is applied to God as responding with guardianship to the trust placed in Him by men (1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”) 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Faithful is also the same term applied to Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
Righteous/Just is a term that is applied both to God and to Christ as well. (John 17:25 – “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me;”). The two words, faithful and righteous, imply each other. They unite in a true conception of God’s character because God, who is absolute righteous/just, must be faithful to His own nature.
So, 1 John 1:9 is perfectly consistent, when interpreted correctly. However, there are some who believe that forgiveness is conditional (i.e. if believers confess, God will forgive; if they do not confess, He will not forgive). But, this is error. First, we need to note that the verse is actually a reiteration of God’s faithfulness to His New Covenant promise of salvation in the Old Covenant: Jeremiah 31:34 says, “…I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The reminder is that He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This reemphasizes the truth John has just stated in verse 7 – that God will, because of His character, secure our eternal glory by continuing to cleanse believers from all future sin. He is faithful to His promise and always does what is righteous. Thus, forgiveness is consistent with who Jesus Christ is and with what the Father promised, according to His perfectly faithful, righteous, just, holy, and loving nature. God is both faithful and just/righteous. God is faithful to his nature and character as we stated earlier in 2 Timothy 2:13 and in Hebrew 10:23.
So it can be said that in forgiving our sins and cleansing us from them, God displays loyalty to his covenant—his faithfulness because of His Word and His justice because of the deed which ratified it. More simply, He is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and righteous/just because His Son died for our sins. If a believer confesses his or her sins to God, He will cleanse all unrighteousness from that person. Forgiveness and cleansing are guaranteed because God is faithful to His promises. God can maintain His perfect character and yet forgive us because of the perfect and righteous sacrifice of Jesus. This should humble us to our very core because our salvation cost us nothing; it is a gift of God. But salvation is very costly; it cost God the death of His Son.
“to forgive us our sins”
To forgive – Primarily the word means to send away, dismiss; to remit, as a debt. Forgive—remitting the guilt. Forgiveness answers to the essential purpose of God’s faithful and righteous being.
We should be careful to distinguish this forgiveness of the Father for His children from the forgiveness we received at our redemption. This passage is written to those who are already saved from eternal judgment but now are children of God in need of forgiveness for the sin in their daily walk.
Our sins – notice the plural, as compared with the singular, sin, in verse 8. The plural seems to indicate that the confession is to be specific as well as general. Sin is defined by John as lawlessness. Lawlessness is darkness, lovelessness, and selfishness. 1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”
In view of verse 8, Christians ought to be ready at all times to acknowledge any sin which God’s light has exposed to them. Each Christian is responsible to confess whatever the light makes him aware of, and when he does so, a complete and perfect cleansing is granted him.
In modern times some have occasionally denied that a Christian needs to confess his sins and ask forgiveness. The claim is that a believer already has forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 1:7). But this point of view is false. What is considered in 1 John 1:9 may be described as “familial” forgiveness. It is perfectly understandable how a son would ask his father to forgive him for his faults while at the same time understanding that his position within the family is not in jeopardy.
Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Himself taught His followers to seek forgiveness of their sins in a prayer that was obviously intended for daily use – in the Model Prayer in Matthew 6:11-12, it says, “give us this day our daily bread” which precedes “forgive us our debts.”
Also, confession of sin is never connected by John with the acquisition of eternal life, which is always conditioned on faith. Remember that John is not speaking to the unsaved, he is talking to Christians. When a believer loses personal touch with the God of light, he begins to live in darkness. But confession of sin is the way back into the light and fellowship with God.
“to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
Cleansing contemplates the personal character of the sinner; remission of his acts. Cleansing – to make clean; means to purify from all filthiness so that we more and more become free from the presence of sin through sanctification.
Unrighteousness. In the Greek it means ‘bad or malignant’. While the term is often used in the general sense of ‘wrong’ (Psalms 18:21), it refers more specifically to evil, not in its moral or judicial sense, but in its active form, i.e. mischief (Numbers 16:26). As such, it denotes perversity of mind (Proverbs 15:26; Romans 1:29) by which the natural man surrenders himself to evil impulses (Psalms 10:1–11).
Unrighteousness is offensive to Him who “is just” or righteous; it is called “sin,” because “sin is the transgression of the law,” and the law is the expression of God’s righteousness, so that sin is unrighteousness. Therefore, the righteous One who calls us into fellowship with Himself, purges the unrighteousness which is contrary to His nature and which renders fellowship impossible.
“If we say that we have not sinned”
Some people may admit to having a sin nature while still denying any personal sin and thus no need for confession. The Greek verb translated we have not sinned indicates a denial in the past that continues to the present. Unlike verse 8, which speaks of the guilt of sin or a sinful nature, this verse is about the denial of any particular sin.
We have not sinned refers to the commission of actual sins, even after regeneration and conversion; whereas in 1 John 1:8, “we have no sin,” refers to the present guilt remaining (until cleansed) from the actual sins committed, and to the sin of our corrupt old nature still adhering to us.
This heretical claim is indicated by the words if we claim we have not sinned. The heretics may concede in theory that sin would destroy the joy of their fellowship with God if they did sin, and that sin does exist in our nature, and yet deny that they have in practice sinned. This is the most heinous, blatant and offensive denial regarding their sinlessness. However, John is as clear about the sin in our behavior as he is about its origin in our nature and its consequences in preventing joy in our fellowship with God.
“we make Him a liar”
To say that we have not sinned is neither just to tell a deliberate lie, nor to be deceived, but actually to accuse God of lying, to make him out to be a liar and to reveal clearly that his word has no place in our lives. This is because his word frequently declares that sin is universal, and the word of the gospel, clearly presumes the sinfulness of man.
God has explicitly said that all people are sinners in numerous Scriptures. To reject that fact is to blaspheme God with slander and call Him a Liar.
Those who deny the certainty, of sin are those who not only claim not to sin now, but who say that they have never sinned. By making that outrageous assertion they blasphemously make God a liar in two ways.
First, they explicitly deny His teaching that all have sinned (as we just discussed above), and second, they implicitly deny the need for a Savior. After all, why would they need a substitute to take their punishment for something they claim to have never committed?
Anyone, even a professed believer seeking to cover up their sin, is in the depths of spiritual darkness and deception, and blasphemes God. Conversely, when those who are in fellowship and then fall into sin, they do not deny sin’s presence or their tendency toward it. Instead, they openly and honestly confess and repent of their sins before the Lord.
“His word is not in us”
Denying that sin is in us indicates that God’s word is not in us. In other words, a person who denies committing sinful acts does not have the Word of God changing their life. To deny one’s personal sin in the face of God’s testimony to the contrary, is to “make” God “out to be a liar.” By contradicting His Word, a person rejects it and refuses to give it the proper “place” in his life.
His word is not in us — John often refers to the word as “truth.” By denying the truth, we drive it from our hearts. John 5:38 says, “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.” Our rejection of “His word” in response to us as sinners implies our rejection of His word as revealed in the law and Gospel as a whole. The fact is that we have sin, and have sinned.
His word, God’s Word, God’s truth is the personal Word as highlighted in John 1:1, but it is also the divine message of the Gospel. The truth is the very substance of the Word.
How are we, as believers in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, supposed to apply these truths we have learned today? The essence of the message of life is fellowship with God and with His children. Walking in the light we have fellowship, and the blood of Jesus is constantly applied to cleanse us from sin. Our sin is darkness and unrighteousness and it negates our joy of fellowship.
Are we living as if we have no sin nature?
Are we living in a manner such that we are deceiving ourselves?
Are we really seeking the truth?
Are we living in a manner that demonstrates that the truth is in us?
Are we confessing our sins consistently and regularly?
Are we confessing specifically and generally our sins?
Do we really believe that God is faithful to forgive?
Why do we sometimes live our lives as if we are not forgiven?
Do we fully comprehend that He can cleanse us from all unrighteousness?
So at the close of 1 John 1, the aging apostle presents further tests of salvation and a clear picture of who passes those tests. Those who pass are true Christians who embrace God’s forgiveness but are nonetheless constant confessors of their sin. That characteristic is a reality in their lives due to God’s regenerating and sanctifying work in their hearts, by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of truth. Genuine believers are those people who have been cleansed from all sin, yet feel its presence powerfully and are eager to confess their remaining sins and, by the power of new life in the Spirit, conquer temptation.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)