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1 John 1:9
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One of the most common responses I get when I tell believers they are forgiven of all sin is "What about 1 John 1:9?" Let's look at 1 John 1:9 and then we'll explain how this verse actually teaches that God has removed our sins completely through Christ.
1 John 1:9 says
If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I feel that what many Christians don't understand is that 1 John 1:9 was never written about believers. 1 John 1:9 was written to believers but it was written about Gnostic teachers who had infiltrated their ranks. In the letter of 1 John, I see two particular Gnostic teachings addressed, there are more but we will use these two for our study. Gnostics taught that Jesus did not have a physical body but rather that He was a spirit or a phantom.
This is why John writes in 1 John chapter 4 verses 1-4
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
John was refuting the Gnostic belief that Jesus did not have a body and that He did not physically die on the cross for sin. John called this Gnostic belief an anti-Christ teaching. In addition to this teaching, Gnostics also believed and taught that they did not have or share a part in the sin of Adam. Gnostics did not believe that they were sinners. Not believing themselves sinful they did not believe that Jesus came to pay the penalty of mans’ sin by His death on the cross, much less theirs. They believed that Jesus was the way-shower, but not the way.
Therefore, John writes addressing this issue in 1 John chapter 1 verses 8-10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
John was saying that if they would admit that they had a sinful nature and trust in Jesus' final sacrifice for sin, then God would be faithful to have forgiven them and cleansed them from all unrighteousness. If a person does not believe they are a sinner, they see no need to come to Christ for salvation. This is exactly what the Gnostics believed. To the Gnostics Jesus was not a Savior who died on the cross for their sins, but rather a way-shower to God.
A certain believer, wanting to make sure he was reading this chapter correctly, contacted a professor of Greek at a well-known seminary. This professor told this believer that he, for the longest time, had believed the traditional teaching about 1 John 1:9 but that as He was reading the passage in Greek, he had come to an altogether different conclusion. He now was certain that John meant it for unbelieving Gnostics rather than believers in Christ Jesus.
We also see from looking into the Greek text that the words "To forgive" are the Greek words "Hina Alphei" which are a second aorist subjunctive. This implies a "one time forgiveness with ongoing results."
In addition, we must consider the following questions: How many of your sins did Jesus die for? All of them, of course. How many sins had you committed when Jesus died? You hadn't committed any. You weren't born yet. Friend, all of your sins were in the future when Christ died, that was when He forgave you; He forgave you all of your sins!
We also must consider the Apostle Paul and his writings. There is only one verse after the cross that teaches confession of sins in order to be forgiven - 1 John 1:9. Why did not the Apostle Paul, the man that God used to write thirteen different epistles, mention anything at all about confessing sins in any of his epistles? Paul’s message was that God had forgiven believers all trespasses!
Think about this: Why, in the Old Testament, did the Hebrews confess their sins to have all their sins covered for one full year when, under the New Covenant, many Christians confess their sins daily? Is not the blood of Jesus better than that of bulls and goats?
What about the word "confess"? The word "confess" is the Greek word "Homologeo" which means, "To say the same thing as another." I had always thought that to confess sins meant to ask God to forgive you, but this word means nothing of the sort. To confess is to agree with God. Agree with God about what? Agree with Him that you’ve sinned and then agree with Him that He took your sin away when He died on the cross.
Again, John was writing this about Gnostics, and was simply saying that if they would turn from unbelief and agree with God that they were born sinners, and that Jesus died to take away their sins on the cross, then God would be faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.
Jesus did not miss one ounce of unrighteousness when He saved you! He cleansed you from all of it! 1 John 1:9 actually teaches that you have been cleansed from all unrighteousness!
Believer be free from sin-consciousness. Realize that you have been cleansed from all unrighteousness! Jesus has finished the work and He has forgiven you!
Paul Rupe has served as associate pastor as well as a number of other positions in his local fellowship. Paul currently is web administrator for Gracespirations Daily Devotion an outreach of Teleo Ministries.
You can visit Paul online at http://teleoministries.blogspot.com
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