|Posted on May 29, 2020 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
Where do you stand on God's grace for those who may believe in Him but try to enter (out of ignorance or incorrect teaching) into Christ in a way other than what the Word describes? In other words, does God's grace (forgiveness) accrue to one's benefit BEFORE obedience to his Word?
We enter or reenter a relationship with God through our making a choice to be with him AND by choosing to live a life as he would have us live. We move out of living in sin and move into living in Jesus Christ. Faith would encompass belief and trust, and would exemplify the choice we make. Repentance would memorialize the choice and would be the process of moving from sin to Spirit. Baptism and confession would be public demonstrations of the choice and the life change. We would not teach that baptism, faith, confession, or repentance have any magical properties. They are all part of the process of acceptance of God’s mercy and our change of life.
Some of us were taught baptism, faith, confession, and repentance are steps that must be taken. We believed that Jesus brought in a new set of laws or rules that must be followed and obeyed in order for us to be saved and to get to heaven. Are we under a new set of rules? It is interesting that the New Testament never says there is a new set of laws to follow. We have made that interpretation, based mainly on the passage in Jeremiah and Hebrews that references a new covenant.. See our blog “New Covenant.”
Because we have extrapolated there is a set of laws we must follow, we love to sing “Trust and Obey, there is no other way” and to say it is necessary to “obey the gospel” in order to be saved. By obey, we nearly always mean following a set of laws. Neither of these exact phrases were uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ nor by the apostles. We came up with those phrases to describe our interpretation about rules that must be followed. Let’s talk a bit about “obey.”
The New Testament does talk about obedience. We are told to obey what Jesus commanded us, God, the Word of God, Jesus’ word, Jesus’ teaching, and even the law. What does that mean? What does it mean to obey God along with his word, teachings, and law? I would think those are all talking about the same thing. Obedience includes the whole process of choosing and following God. What is his word and teaching for us? It is to love him and love people. Jesus said everything is summed up in those two things.
Obedience is about following God. That includes living our life like he wants, a life of love. Yes, we do follow and obey laws, but only as they relate to God and what he wants us to be. The goal is to follow God, not follow rules. To obey the gospel is not about trying to follow rules exactly, but is about choosing and following God. God did not say rules or laws are unimportant. Rules and laws will never go away, because they spell out the specifics of the way we want to act. Jesus said not one tiny bit of the law will pass away. We will always have rules and laws. But following rules and laws does not save us. Following God does. He saves us and forgives us, because we have chosen him and want to be with him. He does not extend grace because we have followed a set of rules perfectly. Perfection does not come before grace. We are not perfect before salvation nor are we perfect afterwards. Perfection through perfect law-keeping never works.
But doesn’t obedience mean obeying the law? Certainly, the Bible does talk about obeying the law. Note that obeying the law is equal to obeying God. Obeying God means following him, not just a list of rules. How do we know that? Jesus, in several places, showed we follow the greater principles of love, justice, mercy, etc. and any rules are ways to point to those things. Let’s look at two passages to show obedience is not defined as rule keeping but rather as following God. Paul says, “So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised” (Romans 2:24 NIV)? Interesting verse. Paul says if we follow the law of God, even though we are not circumcised, we are counted as if we kept the entire law. Following the law, according to Paul is NOT about following every law. It is about following God and his principles. Samuel affirms this when he says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed [is better] than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV). Sacrifices and circumcision were not only God-given laws, but they were core laws. Yet, we are told that obedience is bigger than keeping the laws of sacrifice and circumcision. Is it also possible that obedience to God is bigger than a rule like baptism? Obedience does not mean keeping every single law, even every God-given law. We can be said to obey God and obey his law, even if we don’t keep every law. No one keeps every law perfectly.
However, like many Christians, we were taught and maybe still believe that we must be perfect to win the favor of God. We believe perfection means following a list of rules or laws perfectly. But the Bible never says we must be perfect. Jesus was clear, along with Samuel and Paul, that perfection in keeping rules is not the goal.
Your question asks whether grace applies before salvation or only after. I would have to say that God loves us and wants us to be with him for our entire lives. His love does not start at conversion. Grace was offered before salvation and is not a condition of salvation. We might believe God does not demand perfection for decades of our Christian lives. Are we prepared to say he does demand perfection as we “enter” the Christian life? I would be hard-pressed to make that claim. Remember that forgiveness covers our entire life of sin and mistakes. It is not limited in coverage only to sins and imperfections committed after our first acceptance of God.
We must be careful about using rules and laws, even God’s law, as a barrier to salvation. In Galatians, Paul was dealing with people who wanted a God-given law, circumcision, as a requirement for salvation. Paul said he hoped they mutilate themselves. Pretty tough language! Might we have a problem if we also require a certain rule be followed before a person becomes a Christian? Something to think about. We probably need to be reticent in saying God requires perfect law-keeping in order to become a Christian, but does not require perfect law-keeping to remain a Christian. When we think salvation comes from perfectly keeping every single rule then we kill ourselves with what-ifs and details, like the Pharisees. We start to think we have to act perfectly and believe perfectly. I did not have perfect beliefs when I was saved. That is okay, because God forgives all imperfections and all sins for my entire life. I don’t have perfect beliefs and actions now, but God forgives me. I didn’t have perfect beliefs and actions when I became a Christian either.
Are we saying God loves all people and that all people will be saved? No, although he does love all people. We must make the choice to accept his love and to participate in his love. We can refuse to accept his grace and we can refuse to live lives in the Spirit. If we do choose him and desire to live life with him, then we will forgive all our sins, mistakes, and imperfections for our entire lives. He has never required perfection.
|Posted on April 25, 2020 at 9:25 AM||comments (0)|
According to my Bible, aren't there many scriptures that clearly state the old covenant is obsolete and nailed to the cross? Doesn't that mean we now live under a new set of laws?
Jeremiah 31 and 32 do talk about a new covenant God will make with the people of Israel. Headings in both chapters (which were placed by men) refer to a restoration. This is clearly evident when God says I will bring my people back from being scattered and they will be my people just as i will their God. It says that the earlier covenant established when Israel came out of Egypt was broken by the people. Then God says two interesting things concerning the new everlasting covenant. One, the new covenant is about forgiveness, which we know is the only way of achieving restoration with Yahweh. "I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins." Two, the new covenant is now to be writen on their hearts. Presumably, this is in contrast to the earlier covenant delivered in writing on stones. It is notable that there is nothing about the new covenant being a new written set of rules to replace the earlier. Rather, the new covenant is one where forgiveness and restoration replaces rebellion and sin. And the new covenant is one where the written law is replaced by one on our hearts.
The Hebrews writer quotes part of this section from Jeremiah about the new covenant. He shows that Jesus is superior to the earlier law. In chapter 8, he says we have a better covenant because we have a High Priest who mediates better promises. Therefore, the new covenant will replace the old covenant. In chapter 9, he continues the discussion and gives examples of some of the rules and regulations under the old covenant. It is key that nowhere does he speak of the old covenant with its written set of laws being replaced by a set of written laws under a new covenant. However, that is often believed and taught for some reason. Likely, it is commonly accepted that man must have a set of laws and rules laid out and we must follow them to be saved. That certainly was a misconception of many Jews. Salvation, though, comes from God and does not come from our keeping perfectly a set of rules. The Hebrew writer confirms this by never mentioning any supposed new set of rules. Rather, he explains that the new covenant is better because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ allows for forgiveness for all people. "Once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him." The new covenant eliminates the earlier one with its list of laws and replaces with better promises built around the forgiveness found in the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is nothing about us having to follow a new set of rules rather than an old set of rules.
In Colossians 2, Paul says God has wiped out the "handwriting of requirements" or "legal obligation" and nailed it to the cross. He doesn't directly say this refers to the Mosaic law, but the context indicates that is likely what he had in mind (although it could include other rules as well). What then allows this cancellation to take place? Paul identifies that when he says "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins." Again, just like the new covenant, it is all about forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Forgiveness that comes from the death and resurrection are what makes the nailing possible and wipes out the legal obligations of rules and laws. There is nothing here that talks about a new set of laws.
We are set free, as Paul explains elsewhere, from the law of sin and death. That has to mean any law of sin and death. We are set free not by following a new set of laws but by being in the Spirit. There is no set of laws, old or new, that can set us free from sin. Only the sacrifice of the Lamb can do that. God did not create a better set of laws. Instead, he offered us a better promise and a better sacrifice.
|Posted on April 10, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
James writes a scathing rebuke to the 'saints' in his letter calling them 'adulterous people' in 4:4 and 'sinners' & 'double-minded' in 4:8. Doesn't something sinful remain within us, even though we are covered by the blood of Christ and our sins atoned for?
Are Christians sinners? I have made the point that we are not. Jesus sure seems to make a distinction between being a righteous person and being a sinner. I contend we were sinners, but heeded the call of Jesus to repent and become righteous. I do have a problem of being called a sinner. James did call someone sinners. We might extrapolate that all Christians are sinners, because we could assume that James is addressing only Christians and that he is calling every one of those Christians sinners. Is he doing that? Who, in fact, is he addressing in chapter 4? The people he calls sinners are also named as killers, covetous people, unfaithful people, enemies of God, and people who had not humbled themselves before God. Some have no problem saying all the readers of James'l letter were sinners and Christians at the same time. Are we then ready to say they were all killers, unfaithful, and enemies of God as well? Are we ready to say all Christians today are also? I don’t think so. We can’t just pull out the word “sinner” and not include the other designations. If James' readers, who he addresses in chapter 4, are sinners, they must also be those other things as well.
I have argued that God's fogiveness covers all of our sins. All of our sins have been washed away. I find no comfort in believing that something sinful remains in us. If that is true, then the blood of Jesus has not worked. I don't see how we can have a relationship with God if he chooses not to forgive all sins. After all, it is sin that separates us.
|Posted on April 10, 2020 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Your argument that Paul's present tense language, describing his battle with sin in Romans 7 is actually a past tense literary device speaking of his pre-conversion identity, is a step I have yet to find justification for from other reliable scholars and sources. Isn't it a reality that we still must wrestle and struggle with sin and a sin nature?
First of all, the discussion on tenses was not meant to be a pillar argument. It was more of a supporting explanation of how to make sense of a difficult text in light of other verses. The fact of the matter is that Paul did use the present tense in his discussion of a struggle (although I think the case could be made it is more of a struggle to be perfect in following the law and the resulting guilt of such failure, rather than a struggle with sin, as we mostly interpret). If one only reads the immediate verses around the struggle part, then it surely does seem to point to a present struggle. Here is the problem. Yes, Paul does speak of a struggle in the present tense. But in chapter 8 he uses the present tense to say that now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He further says he has been set free from the law of sin and death, so therefore not presently in sin. We have three choices. A. Paul is presently struggling with guilt (or sin or trying to be perfect) and is not presently free from the law of sin and death. B. Paul is both presently struggling with guilt (or sin or trying to be perfect) and is presently free from the law of sin and death. C. Paul is not presently struggling with guilt (or sin or trying to be perfect) and is presently free from the law of sin and death. Every choice has a tense problem.
All Christians reject A, so that leaves us with B or C. B is the common position, because many believe we “still must wrestle and struggle with sin and a sin nature.” I find that phrase interesting. First, it ties the struggle to a sin nature or flesh, as is sometimes translated. Paul certainly speaks a lot here about the flesh and the Spirit. Second, it says any struggle is a necessity and indicates the struggle is something that never goes away for us and cannot go away. I am not sure Paul says that. He does say “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” That seems to seal the deal for interpretation B. Or does it?
Paul keeps going in chapter 8. I wish sometimes we did not have chapter divisions! In 8:4 Paul says, in the presence tense, we, “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” He explains, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In verse 9, using present tense, Paul continues, “You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit of God.” Are we presently in the flesh (sinful nature) or are we presently in the Spirit? Or are we both? I would have to say that Chapter 8 makes a very strong case that we are not in the flesh, but are in the Spirit. Paul uses the present tense to say we are not in a sin nature The verb tenses are problematic, because Paul does talk of a present salvation and a future salvation However, it seems clear to me that we are not presently living in the flesh and we are not, as Christians, required to struggle with a sin nature. Living in the Spirit must be different from living in the flesh. I agree with Paul that “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Sprit is life and peace.” I choose life and peace. I choose C. I am not in death.
To choose B, you have to say that God is not able to overcome our sinful nature here on earth. I just can’t accept that. Paul is emphatic that we have been “set free from the law of sin and death.” How can we be set free, when some say we must struggle continually with sin and a sinful nature? I just don’ t see it. I don’t see how other scholars and sources can reconcile how we can be in the Spirit and free from sin while still being under sin and the power of sin. It doesn’t make sense. I know some don't agree with my take on the present tense of a struggle in Romans 7. On the other hand, how do we interpret the fact that, in chapter 8, Paul uses the present tense to say we are not in the flesh? Choice B says we are still in the flesh and the sin nature. Only Choice C rigthfully acknowledges jesus Christ has overcome the flesh or sinful nature and that we are not controlled in any way by it.
|Posted on December 18, 2019 at 11:50 AM||comments (0)|
Doesn't Christ demand perfection! Isn't that our goal, because God is the mark?
If perfection is the goal and perfection is defined as never breaking the law, never committing a sin, or never making a mistake then I would say that God does not demand perfection. I do not believe God ever expected perfection from us. If we were perfect we would be God! We don’t expect perfection from ourselves or from others. God made us and knew we would not be perfect. I actually believe it is crazy to think God expects or demands perfection. I know it says be perfect and I tried to address what that means in the book. When it talks about being perfect, sin is not even mentioned. Being perfect entails being complete in following God. Notice that the rich young ruler was encouraged to be perfect by following Jesus, which he was not willing to do. It wasn't about not sinning.
Here’s the deal though. Let’s say we can’t agree on whether God demands perfection or not. The argument is moot because of forgiveness!! I gave up trying to be perfect. That does not make me less perfect then others because we are not perfect anyways. It does generally make me feel less guilty and ashamed. One Christian thinks he has to be perfect and one does not. Which is better off? I say the latter. In both cases, neither person is perfect. Are we to believe it is better to be the person who thinks God demands perfection?
|Posted on December 18, 2019 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
The book claims “Sin is not defined by just breaking the law. Sin’s real danger occurs when it leads to separation.” Doesn't the Bible clearly define sin: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness?” (1 John 3:4)
In the next verse John says “In him there is no sin.” How can those two things be reconciled? I say that vs. 4 is talking about the life outside Jesus Christ in which we are lawless and apart from God. It is not just talking about breaking a Rule Law. If you interpret vs. 4 as merely breaking a law then you will have a hard time with verse 5. How can you and I not be in sin if sin is defined as simply breaking the law. We don’t discuss verse 5, but talk a lot about verse 4. The problem is that we define sin too narrowly. God is interested in the overall choices and results; he is not making up laws to trap us. Let’s go back to the Garden. The problem wasn’t just eating the fruit. The problem at its root was the choice to live apart from God. That choice was manifested in the act itself, but there was no bad magic in eating fruit. The sin was leaving God.
Furthermore, isn't ALL sin except those repented of lead to separation - thus, needing grace?
There is some truth to that, but I might be careful of such a blanket statement. It might be interpreted that every sin for a Christian will separate us from God without and unless we specifically repent of that particular sin. Again, we tend to dwell on each sin and make that the focus. In Christ, we are living in repentance and his blood is continuously washing us. Remember “In him there is no sin.” Does that mean there is no breaking of a rule by Christians? No. It means there is no sin because we are no longer sinners and are not in the state of sin. That state of sin is the state of lawlessness.
|Posted on December 18, 2019 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
What are the criteria one must use to ascertain the difference between human made rules and God’s rules?
My opinion is that the Bible is not always clear in this area. There is some ambiguity. We must follow every law or we must not? That is not easy to answer. Jesus didn’t follow every law and yet said not one bit of the law will disappear! How clear is that? In the book I did not give a list (criteria) for when we must do one thing and not the other although we discussed he need to work from the godly principles. I believe that sometimes the solution is fuzzy and is not always consistent from time to time or people to people. Certainly, none of us want to say anything goes, but if we are honest we must admit that Christians do pick and choose and modify rules and laws. I don’t require animal sacrifice and I don’t require circumcision. When did God say those requirements went away?
Let me address what I think is one problem. Because there is not always a set answer then we want to come up with a way of determining that elusive set answer. For some of us, we have decided that the solution lies in knowing what are God’s laws and what are man’s. To ask about the criteria related to ascertaining the difference, we may be asking the wrong question. We are assuming, perhaps, that deciding what is God’s law and what is man’s law is the key. The point I was trying to make was that there is precisely not always a list or criteria for that either. Asking such a question reduces what we want to have in relationship down to following the right list. There is, however, no right list of God’s rules. The Bible no where gives us a complete list of rules and laws nor does it give us always immutable laws. We must make decisions not just on what God said or didn’t say. Trying to decide everything on the basis of God’s law verses man’s laws works sometimes, but often (or at times) does not do enough. The Jews got in trouble all the time with Jesus over this. We often say that they had the right idea, but just didn’t have it all together. They simply missed the right list. We all think we know what that list is. But we don’t. We sometimes try to say that God had old rules that didn’t work, so he gave us new rules in the NT. Honestly though, the NT does not give a list of rules. It does not tell us always how to decide what are man’s laws and what are God’s laws. So we then create ways like “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” "apostolic example equals direct command," or “In matters of faith unity and in matters of opinion liberty.” Those have some value but aren’t from Jesus. They are from Christians trying to get the list right-to be able to have set answers.
However, we keep arguing over what is faith and what is opinion. You and I probably don’t even fully agree on the list. And I know we would have opinions on what are opinions. What I am saying is that we need to work more on the principles and less on laws themselves. It is not about trying all the time to interpret what rules God may or may not have given us. It is not about the difference between human made rules and God’s rules. It is about how we can go beyond all rules to be the kind of person we were created to be. Jesus and Paul are clear that we are not bound by law, but unhappily we want to keep binding ourselves. Rules are primarily for the ignorant and those who don’t want to follow God. That is what Paul said.
|Posted on November 15, 2019 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
There simply can be no eternal conscious torment, and certainly nobody who would choose it!! Do you agree?
While the book is not primarily on heaven and hell, I did discuss them. We always must be careful to avoid too strong of a position on heaven and hell for two reasons. One, while the Bible does speak of heaven and hell, we must admit that we don't have a lot of details. I am sure most Christians would like to know more. Two, because relatively little is said, opinions therefore vary considerably among Christians. I take three postions abouut hell. First, hell is either a synonym for being in the not God state or else closely tied to that. Anyone who is said to be in hell is one separated from God. Second, hell is not a physical place and does not have associated attributes like literal fire or gates. However, the state of hell is very unpleasant and bad indeed because it is the state of being away from God and all of his wonderful qualities. Third, all of us have the choice to select God or not God so therefore have the choice to select heaven or hell.
The criticism noted at the beginning says there cannot be an eternal conscious torment. The Bible does not actually use the phrase "eternal conscious torment" nor do i in the book. I will say that although hell may not be a physical torment of a lake of fire it could be described as torment. The Bible uses the term torment. What better way to descfribe what it is like to be out of the presence of God? So I would have to say there is a torment. Fire, darkness, gnashing of teeth all suggest torment. I am not sure what the critic means by conscious torment. It seems to me that would be the only kind. Wouldn't unconscious torment be no torment at all? Now, is there eternal torment? Without going into verses that might deal with that, I would say that the torment of separation from God will last as long as there are people separated from God. Does there come a time when all people will be saved regardless of their choice? I know some Christians do advocate a Universal Salvation. I did not argue for or against that in the book, but I am not yet convinced that God will override our choice to not be with him.
That brings us to the other point asserted: that nobody would choose this eternal concious torment. It does baffle Christians as to why anyone might choose hell over heaven. But in the same way we are baffled as to why there is a choice of God over not God. The choice is the same. So to certify that nobody would choose torment is to say nobody would choose to be separated from God. However, the Bible seems clear to me that people, and a fair amount of them, do choose to not be with God. To deny that is to take the position that either God does not allow us a choice at all or that at some point God will override our negative choice. The alternative view is that while we may have choiice and make bad choices on earth, but when we come face to face with God every single person will change their mind and choose God. I have to say that any of these positions are hard to support biblically. For example, the parable of Lazarus seems to indicate that God provides everything we need to make sensible choices while we are on earth. Christians who say that any choice of opposing God here on earth will be reversed at judgment are basicaaly saying that God does not give us adequate tools on earth to make the right choice. It is baffling that people prefer the state of sin and hell over the state of God and love. But it does happen, does it not?
|Posted on September 28, 2019 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
Doesn't 1 Cor. 9:27 sounds a lot like a “struggle” in which Paul is presently and [at least to some degree] engaged?
I may miss your question, but I don’t see this as related that much to what I am addressing. My claim is that God’s forgiveness and salvation are complete and that we longer need to struggle daily with sin as if sin is about to overcome us at any minute. This passage is not really addressing Paul’s salvation or any battle or struggle with sin. Rather, he is discussing his preaching of the Gospel and what he must do to reach people. He picks up on the idea of slavery to show to what extent he will go to be successful. In verse 19 he says he will become a slave to everyone in order to win them to Christ. What does being a slave involve? It involves in some respect giving up something like control or freedom. Here, Paul gives up his freedom in Christ in order to live under some of the restrictions that the Jews or the Greeks lived under. He is willing to take on some duties of the law when he is around those who follow the law meticulously. Again, he is not talking at all about his salvation or his wanting to avoid sin. In the 19-23 section sin is not even mentioned.
Paul does like to mix metaphors so he throws in about training. But he is still talking about preaching the gospel and does not leave the slavery idea. In vs 27 he says, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” How is he becoming a slave? He is giving up his time and freedom to train hard. This is still tied to his preaching and he claims again to make himself a slave as he did before. He does not want to miss the prize. What is the prize? We tend to think that is salvation or heaven, but again there is nothing here in this passage about those things. Why did he want to make himself a slave in verse 19? To win as many as possible. Why did he want to make himself a slave in verse 27? So he will not be disqualified for the prize. Logic would say these two goals are the same thing or very related. He did not want to lose the prize of winning as many as possible. The prize is not his personal salvation, his entering heaven, or freedom from sin. Training your body to preach and struggling with sin may seem to sound alike but really are two different things.
Notice in Romans 7 Paul really is not talking about a struggle with sin either. He is discussing a struggle to try to be perfect through keeping the law, a struggle that was behind him.
|Posted on September 26, 2019 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
How do you fit I Jn. 1:5-10 into your reasoning?
I am not surprised to have this brought up. Originally, I included a treatment of this passage with the intention of anticipating objections. I tried this treatment in a couple of places in the body of the book and even in an appendix. However, I finally decided to leave it out, thinking my answer to a supposed question was perhaps too much and probably unnecessary for what I wanted to do. We do tend to read the Bible and particularly “hard” verses in light of our interpretations as a whole. In this passage, I think many scholars and Christians see a confirmation of the idea that Christians still are sinners and so interpret accordingly. Once one starts to understand that perhaps Christians are not sinners and, as John says elsewhere, either do not sin or else stop sinning, then I think a fair approach is to see how we might need to reexamine verses that seemed so plain to us before.
My deleted thoughts on this passage:
In 1 John 1 doesn’t John say we all have to admit that sin is in Christians? John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, 10 NIV) In the middle of that section he adds “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ (1 John 1:9 NIV) Does John say Christians are in sin? Some say that he implies it by the use of the theoretical “we.” This verse is also used to support the argument that Christians who sin need to confess to each other. Maybe they do need such mutual confession, but John is not making that point at all in this section. He is not talking about Christians who sin and then need to confess. Rather, he refers to the people who are still in sin but deny sin altogether.
In this passage, John contrasts two kinds of people. One group are the ones who say they have no sin and, therefore, do not need Christ. The other is made up of those who admitted that they have sinned, recognized they were separated from God, and now have turned to God. Consider the two groups:
1. Those who claim they have no sins/deny (“if we”;). Verses 8 and 10. Deceiving themselves. Not having truth. Making God a liar. Not having God's word in them.
2. Those who admit/confess they have sins (“if we”;). Verse 9. Receiving forgiveness. Being purified from unrighteousness
Does group 1 refer to Christians who don't confess and group 2 refers to Christians who do confess? No. Group 1 are non-Christians who deny sin and therefore still have a need for a savior. The Group 1 descriptions can in no way apply to Christians. John did not consider himself or other Christians as not having truth, not having God’s word, and making God a liar. Group 2 refers to Christians who have admitted sin and accepted Jesus Christ as savior.
I will point out the light /darkness metaphor (see Chapter 2 of Erased) just as John does in this section. Compare this secondary grouping to the one above:
A. Those who claim fellowship with him but walk in darkness (“if we”;). Verse 6. Lying. Not living in truth.
B. Those who walk in the light (“if we”;). Verse 7. Fellowshipping with each other. Being purified from all sin.
In verses 6-7, John uses the “we” not as inclusive of his Christian readers and him, but the “we” is inclusive of everyone in a supposed group. Another way to do that is to use “one.” One might do this or one might do that. Notice John says, “if we walk in the darkness” and then, conversely, “if we walk in the light.” He certainly is not saying that he and his Christian readers are walking in darkness and light at the same time, but rather he is alluding to the supposed “anyone” who does one or the supposed “anyone” who does the other. Those in darkness are liars and not in truth while those in the light are purified from sin. Then in verses 8 and 10 he picks up the same contrast. Those who claim to never have sinned are the ones deceiving themselves and not having the truth. It is plain these are the same as the ones in verse 6, i.e., the ones who are in the darkness. In contrast to the ones in darkness are those who confess their sins and are purified from unrighteousness. Again, these confessors in verse 9 are the same as the ones in verse 7, the ones purified from sins and walking in the light. John is not saying in chapter 1 that Christians are in sin and in chapter 3 they are not in sin. Rather, in both chapters, he is affirming those outside of Jesus Christ are sinners and those in Jesus Christ are not sinners.
People who argue this passage teaches Christians are in sin key in on John saying we. John never says we Christians deny sin and walk in darkness. He did say if we do deny sin exists and we do walk in darkness then we are lying, not living in truth, deceiving ourselves, and making God a liar. On the other hand, he says if we do admit sins and walk in the light, we are receiving forgiveness, being purified from sins, and fellowshipping with each other. Which group do you think Christians are in? I am betting on the latter.
In summary, those who claimed to be without sin and therefore to have no need for Jesus Christ were liars and deceivers. John was in no way saying Christians need to confess up and admit they are sinners. Instead, he says that Christians, in contrast to the imposters, had already admitted they were sinners and in need of Christ. They had accepted Christ and forgiveness of those sins. John confirms what we have been saying. We are not sinners because our sins are being forgiven.
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