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Confession of Sins

Posted on September 26, 2019 at 10:10 AM

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.

Categories: Erased: God's Complete Forgiveness of Sins