1 Jan 1999

1 John 1:9 and Confession

Submitted by theshovel
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1 John 1:9 - Could it mean something else?

If you are familiar with confession, you’ve no doubt heard 1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

It has got to be the most exploited verse in the New Testament. It should come as no surprise since there are NO OTHER VERSES in the N.T. that seem to say we are forgiven and cleansed from our sins because we confess them. Go ahead and look for them, thou shalt not find them (There are a few verses that seem to support the traditional teaching, but not by themselves.). [A thought: How is it that Paul seemed to have totally overlooked this super-important issue? Did it just slip his mind? Perhaps God’s Spirit forgot to inspire him concerning it? Or is it more likely that John didn’t say what we THINK he said?] During the past few years many others have come to this same conclusion. Based on the simple reality of the once and for all forgiveness through His death and resurrection, believers are rejecting the notion that we have to keep asking for it (assuming we have to ask for it in the first place). “It is finished” means it is finished!! So, IF 1 John 1:9 has another meaning, what is it? If you AGREE that the traditional teaching is wrong, the best sounding alternative will be good enough. If you DON’T agree, you may let an obviously contrived view keep you in your rut of constantly questioning what Jesus really did. So, I’m asking you to reconsider the endless confession cycle in view of, both, what it CAN’T mean and what it REALLY means. AND I’m also asking you who have accepted a “good enough” interpretation of 1 John 1:9 to reconsider that maybe you know what it DOESN’T mean, but don’t know what it DOES mean. There is a difference.


  1. So, first of all, is there a place for confession? Here are your options as I see them
  2. Defend it: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it, and I won’t discuss it!”
  3. Ignore it: Heck, why not? We do it with most other things.
  4. Evade it: Ridicule it by denouncing the extremes.
  5. Redefine it: Limit the meaning to provide an easy way to handle it.
  6. Re-examine it: Find out what it really means in its own context.

Now, I realize this may be an oversimplification, because at times these points criss-cross in our reasoning. But which do YOU lean on the most? Which one is making you shake your head right now at my presumption? I know, I do it, too. :) I’m NOT suggesting that the Bible presents an optional or faulty viewpoint that cannot be trusted. But I am suggesting that we can and, often do, form it around our own perceptions (yeah, me with mine, too). As far as needing to examine it in the original Greek, if you can’t get the basic idea from the English, you’ll just compound the problem with an ancient, foreign language! Something else I’m not suggesting is that you make confession a primary issue in your life!! For LIFE is not a collection of issues that require attention, but it has to do with what’s been put on your plate. And if you were actually considering what’s in front of you instead of what used to be there, or what you think oughta be there, or what your brother has on his plate, you might just realize that intellectual sparring is a complete waste of your time.

The Weasel Clause

(informal) An escape clause; a clause in a legal contract permitting one of the parties to escape (“weasel out of”) its obligations under some circumstances. Quote from Wiktionary

We weasel out of something because we are unwilling or unable. Perhaps, we don’t want to or we can’t. And I am saying that this teaching rests upon a weasel clause. And guess what? A Bible verse is used to support it. Don’t be surprised; the practice has gone on for millenia. The clause is “Unknown Sin”, and the supporting verse is:

If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18

  • THE PREMISE: Unconfessed sin = out of fellowship.
  • PROBLEM #1: Forgetting a sin.
  • THE BEST PRACTICE: Confess sins immediately.
  • PROBLEM #2: Pride gives the illusion there is nothing to confess.
  • THE WEASEL: Not accountable unless it’s “regarded it in the heart”.

It’s a necessary clause in the scenario, for otherwise, you’d be stuck outside God’s favor most of your life! But here’s the main problem: Sin is sin, and a loss of memory doesn’t change the fact that God cannot “fellowship” with a sinner! For the verse means exactly what it says. The blind man that Jesus had healed said (and he had learned it from the rabbis),

We KNOW that God does not hear sinners… John 9:31

But there was a man who stepped on to the scene and changed everything … and God heard Him. Not only that, but He hears all those who have been made righteous by this one man. So, we don’t need no stinkin’ weasel!!

The Definition

  • As far as a simple definition of the word “confession” goes, the Greek is easy. Broken down it looks like this:
  • homo = same
  • logeo = say

Ignore the fact that it’s a “Biblical” language because it doesn’t take a genius to understand the simplicity of “same-say” and to know that it is a rare thing to behold. For we are inundated with words, and very few have any connection to what is really going on inside us. And this is the simplicity of confession: verbal expressions that reflect what is going on in the person. Do you remember being in a classroom setting where you were called upon to “Tell us something about yourself”? Do you remember any of the disjointed things that came out of your mouth … that is, if anything came out at all? But this is the environment in which we learned to interpret the meaning of confession. Someone was in the spotlight giving a “testimony”, and often, the only part that reflected what was going on inside was when they said, “I’m really nervous right now!” The rest was, more than likely, a carefully worded speech. It might even have been a very good speech, but not a confession. Here’s what I’m saying: we have learned to define “confession” as something more akin to a prepared testimony than to the actual verbal expression of what’s really happening in the person. Almost all true confession happens outside the classroom and most is not even recognized as such. Confession is spontaneous and happens without announcing itself — it’s as silly as announcing how humble you are being — and it happens right under your nose.

What the verse does not say

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

Before I get into what the verse IS saying, I think it will help to notice something that it is NOT saying, because most who focus on confession are teaching something that isn’t even there. Does the word “if” automatically imply a corresponding “then”? Or didn’t you notice that the verse doesn’t say “then”? Stop right now and read it again. No “then”, huh? My point is that this verse has been so terribly pulled out of context that you are probably wondering what in the heck I’m trying to say! Is there really a condition being implied here that IF you do something, THEN God will do something in return? Are you sure? You can keep staring at the verse, but it won’t show itself as long as you separate it from the surrounding verses, seeing as how it was written that way. You are probably protesting as you read this because you know what “if” means and that there ain’t nothing I can say to twist that word out of there. But I want you to know that my whole argument rests on how that “if” fits in with the other “ifs” (four of them, to be specific). Go ahead and look at them and see if you notice a sandwiched pattern. It’s like a double-decker peanut-butter and jelly sandwich: 6, 8 & 10 is the bread, while 7 & 9 is the peanut-butter and jelly. :-)

Got Milk? :)

You know, without milk, a PB&J sandwich is hard to get down, and maybe that’s why 1 John is so hard to swallow. Let me explain. There is a premise that John established from the beginning, and yet it sits mostly untouched as we choke down suggestions of guilt and shame. Oh, I’ve seen some nice outlines that contain the pretense of cohesion, but I have as yet to see it handled as a SMOOTH-FLOWING UNIT consistent with the reality of “It is finished!” (Remember, it was John who recorded that, and I don’t think he was contradicting it here.). John started with the LIFE. His claim was that the WORD became flesh for the purpose of bringing them into union with the Father and with the Son (“fellowship” = having all things in common; partakers, sharers…

And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. John 17:11

He asked his father to make them one even as he and his father are one. That’s not all! The message of these original disciples blatantly declared that others (even you and me) could enter into this SAME union - or fellowship - that Christ had brought them into. If that’s a little too potent for you, you can always water it down a bit — everybody else does it, why not you? Now, there is one more piece to this that should make us laugh at the ridiculous attempts to get around it. It is the message, itself that John claims to have announced:

And 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. 1 John 1:5

For crying out loud, follow it through! If this is true, we have a MAJOR problem since the popular idea of fellowship states that we are sometimes in, sometimes out, with a weasel clause that allows for unknown sin! But if there is no darkness AT ALL in God, then you are left with this: YOU CANNOT BE IN HIM according to that premise! Got milk?

The Five “ifs”

I call it the Five-IF Sandwich … and if it didn’t contain one of our favorite verses we might see it a little clearer. But as it is, the individual phrases are too familiar, so we can’t see the forest for the trees. I have an idea: I’m going to take the basic FORMAT of verses 6-10 and write an article you might read in a modern magazine. It’s about seeing the obvious when you’re in the midst of confusion and not about putting you into yet more confusion.

How to determine if your partner is really being honest with you!


Now take another look at the passage in view of how John led up to it and then continued with this distinction throughout the rest of the letter:

How to determine who is really being honest with you about the message of light

  1. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
  2. 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.
  3. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
  4. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  5. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Step back a moment and observe: 6, 8 & 10 all begin with, “If we SAY …” ; while 7 & 9 start with “but if we walk” and “If we confess”. Don’t miss the obvious: John had sandwiched the TRUE MESSAGE OF CHRIST (as spoken by the apostles) between the FALSE MESSAGE of the deceivers (see 1 John 2:26) so that the irreconcilable differences would become blatantly obvious. I have no doubt that the believers reading this letter saw it as clear as day. WE have been trained to assume that John was teaching that believers fall in and out between these two extremes. The things mentioned in verses 6, 8 & 10 were NEVER referring to one who has been born of God, while that which is written in verses 7 & 9 are the earmarks of a believer. Now, what does that mean? Are we supposed to go around examining each other for fruit? Not at all, for that is the game played by the world in the attempt to look better! John is referring to stuff that cannot be helped or held back! Walking in the light and Confessing our sins has nothing to do with some duty we’re supposed to perform. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now. I’ll bet you haven’t considered these verses quite like this before.

Walking in the light

Oh, boy, we have some really whacked out ideas of what THIS is supposed to mean! I know, I know … I used to teach some of them. :) Walking in the light isn’t describing WHAT YOU’RE DOING, but WHERE YOU’RE WALKING. The meaning is so obviously simple and yet I struggled with it for years because of MY confusion. I held to certain principles that, if violated, convinced me I was walking in the darkness and not in the light. Now, it gets pretty tricky when there’s a disagreement on one of those principles; and it turns out to be no different than any dispute over any law. And whether in a church setting, a courtroom, or in a family squabble, when you’re arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong the lines can get blurry. Listen to this claim,

I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

I’ll bet your mind just played a trick on you that changed the whole meaning. Did you read it this way: he who FOLLOWS Me shall not walk in the darkness …? Did you think, Yeah, but what does it mean to ‘follow’? But the emphasis in Jesus’ statement would read like this: he who follows ME. It was not about the quality of the following. Everybody follows somebody. If that somebody is Jesus, His claim applies. For if you are IN the light, then everywhere you walk is in the light. Being in the light has its effects. It means we can see where we’re going. We get confused because we’ve gotten so used to being told that we don’t know what it is that we really DO know. Unfortunately, many have been convinced, week after week, that the knowledge of God comes through an “official” minister. But God has qualified all who are in Christ. And if you are in Him, you are in the light. And it will show itself in many ways. If I put a blindfold on during the day I will trip, BUT I WILL KNOW WHY I TRIPPED. If I’m confident I walk confidently, because my eyes aren’t covered. A blind man may practice his steps to look smooth, but a seeing man can tell he’s blind just by observing. If you walk around in confusion, I might wonder what’s up with you, but I’m NOT going to think you are blind.

Walking in the darkness

Just in case you haven’t caught on to what I’m saying about “walking in the darkness” I want to make sure I address it specifically so as not to leave you in the dark … so to speak. hahaha! Darkness is what we were born into in this world. Wherever we walked and whatever we were doing was “in the darkness”. We couldn’t help it because that’s where we were. Before electricity changed the night sky there was a reason you would stumble and fall when you traveled after sundown — you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face! Certain words go along with darkness: lost, stumble, fall, danger, ignorance, hiding, evil, blind. Check out some verses from John. Some of these might provoke more questions, but at least notice the simplicity in them.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. John 3:19

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

We must work the works of him who sent me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. John 9:4

He then answered, whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. John 9:25

And Jesus said, for judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind. those of the pharisees who were with him heard these things and said to him, we are not blind too, are we? Jesus said to them, if you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “we see,’ your sin remains. John 9:39, 40, 41

but if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him. John 11:10

So Jesus said to them, for a little while longer the light is among you. walk while you have the light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. John 12:35

I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness. John 12:46

John’s main point about darkness and fellowship with God is that they don’t co-exist. Those who still remain in darkness may CLAIM to have fellowship with God, but it’s an impossibility, which means they are lying when they claim it. But in Christ we are no longer in the darkness, but in the light. Teaching that believers can “walk in the darkness” is wrong, and it only leads to confusion. When I taught this I had to adopt an alternate definition for the forgiveness that comes from confession because it contradicted the forgiveness that was God’s gift. So, why didn’t John make the same distinctions I had to if that is what he was teaching? Or is it possible that the original recipients of this letter never assumed it meant anything even close to what we have come up with? Maybe there is no more forgiveness that comes when we confess our sins.

Confessing sins to restore fellowship?

No wonder we’re so confused, we’re trying to get back into something we didn’t fall out of! Did you not notice that John NEVER used the phrase “in fellowship” or “out of fellowship”? If that’s what he meant wouldn’t he have said something like it? As it is, we talk about fellowship with God as if it meant that He is happy with us at the moment because we are doing the things necessary to please Him. But having fellowship with God means having all things in common with God. Just how much confession, do you suppose, will bring you such intimacy? No, my friend, it took Jesus’ death to put an end to the darkness we were in; and in doing so, He passed from death into life, and brought us into that same life. If confessing sins could restore fellowship, Jesus Christ would not have had to die to make it happen. So, if I’m claiming that the modern-day practice of confession for restoration of fellowship is a Black Hole, a bogus belief, then what do I think confession of sin is? Isn’t that what you want to know? Whatever you do, please realize that everything I’ve written up to this point is all part of the answer to that question. What I’m going to say next is just the finishing touches.

Claiming - or - Confessing?

1 John 1:9 — If you see it as a piece of the whole, then it fits, for on either side of verse 9 (8&10) are false claims. These are words that do NOT match what is true about the one who speaks them, and therefore are NOT confessions. Do not make the mistake of assuming that those who claim to have no sin, or who claim to have not sinned are not so-called owning up to their failures and shortcomings! For their existence is found within a network of legal-nitpicking. The point is that when all is said and done, those who are in the darkness end up establishing self-help solutions for their “evil”. Those who can fix their own problems do not consider themselves too far gone, and therefore, do not see the need for true deliverance. So, in the midst of this obvious rejection of the basic NEED for what Jesus has done by shedding His blood sits verse 9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now, DON’T LOSE THE FLOW OF JOHN’S ARGUMENT JUST BECAUSE THE VERSE IS SO FAMILIAR! In the same way that “walking in the darkness” describes a person who CANNOT see where he is going, so “walking in the light” describes a person who CAN see where he is going. The absence OR presence of light is the only true factor in the equation. So, if one who CLAIMS to have no sin is describing one who has no truth, then one whose words equals the reality about his sin describes one who is forgiven and cleansed from them; for one who CLAIMS he has not sinned does not have God’s word in him. That, in a nutshell, is 1 John 1:6-10. So, what does it mean to “confess our sins”? Does it mean “taking a moral inventory” of your life? Does it mean that you are supposed to remind yourself that you are merely a “sinner saved by grace” so that you don’t get prideful and forget? Does it imply that you need to remain focused on your sins? I’ll bet you’ve asked yourself questions similar to these, huh?

Confessing our sins

We have a video called “Willow” (a fairy tale) that we’ve played to death over the years. In it, two brownies are part of a quest to find the powerful sorceress, Rozelle but have difficulty in accepting what they find as she had been turned into a small rodent. Their response? “We were expecting something more grand … less fuzzy!” Are we expecting something more grand regarding “confess our sins”? Let me tell you what I’ve discovered: What John means by confession of sins is an automatic response in those who are in the light. For those who are in Christ cannot help but to express what is revealed by the light. You wanna know where I get that from? John. Yep, it’s both in this letter and in his recorded account of the life of Jesus. It is all over the place! I am only amazed at how long it took me to see it. There’s a story in John 9 about a man who was born blind. Jesus came along and did a very weird thing. The result was that the man’s eyes start working. Now, I’m not going to tell you the whole story as you can read it yourself, but it turned into a brouhaha! You know how stuff seems to come out during such times? Well, this was no exception. The subtle reality of confession is portrayed in stark contrast in the midst of arrogant, self-endorsing claims. And realize this: it was no accident!

Blind Evidence, John 9

Imagine the blind man living in a world of darkness. He knows nothing else. “Blindness” and “sight” are seeing men’s words for that which is inconceivable to the “blind”. He can say the words, but has no idea what they mean. He lives in the dark, but is unaware that it is dark since he has nothing to compare it to. But then one day a man comes along and makes mud patties with spit and changes his world. Here’s the super-short version of the conflict: They said, “How did this happen?” He said, “Jesus did it.” They said, “You’re not the guy who was blind.” He said, “I sure am.” They said, “Technically, Jesus is a bad man.” He said, “Well, I’m not too sure about that, but I know I couldn’t see before.” They said, “Tell us the story again.” He said, “Why? Do you want to follow him, too?” They said, “Grrrr! We know our technicalities, but don’t know him.” He said, “Amazing! God heard this guy and you don’t know him?” They said, “Beat it, sleazeball!” Jesus said, “Do you believe in me?” He said, “I do!” Jesus said, “The blind see, the seeing become blind.” They said, “Are you talking about US?” Jesus said, “The sin of the blind is gone, your claim to see reveals that your sin remains.” One was confessing, the others were fabricating (He was the only one not trying to cover his tracks). His words flowed from reality, though I don’t think “flowing” is how he would have described it. I think he was confused and felt incredibly intimidated. For instead of finding his “spiritual” leaders happy for him, they had put him on trial. He had confessed that his former life was in blindness. It was the very point they used to kick him out.

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing. The neighbors therefore, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” Therefore they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam, and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” And they said to him, “Where is He?” He *said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees him who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Again, therefore, the Pharisees also were asking him how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. They said therefore to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews therefore did not believe it of him, that he had been blind, and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” He therefore answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” They said therefore to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” And they reviled him, and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They answered and said to him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they put him out. Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. John 9:1-41

Don’t be afraid to be real

My friends, 1 John 1:9 does have something to say to you, but it has nothing to do with giving an account of yourself … or of your sins. The good news that is contained in this verse was intended to pull you AWAY from the condemnation you find yourself in day after day. What condemnation?

  • Do you hear “glowing testimonies” and wonder why you don’t have one?
  • Does your life not look very pretty compared to that of the “spiritual”?
  • Does sharing your real life struggles cause others to look down on you?
  • Does your mouth seem to get you in trouble when you’re being honest?

Well, guess what? 1 John 1:9 tells you that THESE ARE THE KIND OF PEOPLE who are forgiven. Don’t you know that nothing really changes, and that the same kind of thing was going on in John’s time? When you find yourself feeling totally inadequate in the “congregation of the spiritual” there is something you need to know: claims of spiritual “wellness” are nothing more than masks that hide a real lack, while the words that come out of one who is forgiven exposes his/her own masks. If the group you “fellowship” with encourages using these self-righteous masks why would you continue to put yourself under such conditions? Wherever you happen to gather I encourage you to be real. Your silence only reinforces the game. You will discover (if you haven’t already) that you will be put under the microscope by the “spiritual”. Who knows? In the process, you may find that many others who have learned to stifle their true sincerity will break free from the illegitimate sense of condemnation by your dare to be real.

1 John 1:9 - Responses to feedback

Jim, I just read (and skimmed some) of what you wrote about I John 1:9. So, I’m getting from that that it seems like you don’t think that only applies to the first time that we come to Christ, but that it is something in us that agrees with God on a daily basis that we do indeed sin.

No, I don’t see 1 John 1:9 as referring to something done in “receiving Christ as savior” … which is akin to the “sinner’s prayer” kind of “confession”. As a matter of fact, I don’t see it as any kind of requirement or stipulation whatsoever! Yes, it is a reality that is already happening from within us. Something important to note: while we’re inclined to get hung up on the “sins” part of what John was saying at this point, we usually try to separate it from his later train of thought, “he that is born of God does not sin”. But as we’re used to having the Bible systematized for us it seems counterproductive to consider them together, doesn’t it? :) But it is exactly how John developed his encouragements to this group of people.

It also seems to say that you would be encouraging of us who are in the body of Christ to be more open and honest with each other and “stating the same” as we view it from God’s perspective and tell others.

Interestingly, this habit has been part of the life-blood in many of the discussions around here for a long time! So much of the freedom that has been shared on the Shack has come from this lack of fear concerning faults and failures because we know who we really are!!

I’m not sure though where you have the part “He is faithful… to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness. It would seem to say that you are saying then that that is an on going process. Do I have that right?

The real distinction here is seen in the contrast John made between the message of the apostles (that’s the “we” and “us” in the verses) vs. the lies of the deceivers (who were most obviously hanging out among them). One was REAL, the other was BS. John was not suggesting a process to follow, but a reality of life. God’s faithfulness in Christ means that nothing will ever be held against us and that nothing will ever get us dirty. The ongoing sense has to do with both the reality within us that agrees with God about the crap in our life and the reality that God will never hold it against us nor let it touch us. Consider one of the last sentences in the letter: “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” Sin is not the focal point of 1 John 1:9, but instead it is focused upon the continued reality of forgiveness and cleansing among those who are not trying to hide their faults, failures and/or weakness. The people at that time had originally found confidence through John’s message but had begun to fear and doubt through the message of the deceivers among them. The whole first chapter (as we call it anyhow) was a declaration by John of the reality found in Christ, but as a separated “verse” in our time has been turned into nothing but a ritual. Jim

New Testament: 


theshovel's picture

hello papa Jim, how are you ?
well i was reading your post on shovelnet regarding 1 John 1:9 and confession. i didn’t understand anything. help throw more light. — Helen

The verse simply refers to the reality of the forgiveness of sins within those who recognize it for what it is. John makes it in contrast to the so-called substitute of the religious deceivers. That’s the part that must be understood.

In other words, he didn’t just throw that verse out to become a step in the Christian life, but rather to show the emptiness of everything the deceivers were saying.

The deceivers John was talking about were those who seemed to be so spiritual. They had the “secrets” to the Christian life. The people were being lured by them. John wrote to those people to make their deceptions be seen for what they were. You see, just because teachers might seem to have a good handle on the Bible or have a “deep” understanding of God … it might be totally an illusion. That was the case.

Here’s how 1 John 1:9 fits …
The “salvation” of the deceivers didn’t really need Jesus to have died for sin. They might have used some of the lingo, that is, the expected Christian words, but the life of God shows itself for what it really is. Too many Christian teachers are the same today. They talk about Jesus and about the Bible, about the Holy Spirit … and yet it’s only talk.

How do you know the difference?

Well, if you listen to them (that is, the way they tell you it is), it can be revealed by checking out the doctrine. In other words, have a show down to see whose teaching is “more Biblical.”

The truth is that God is real. His working is revealed not by who is the better Theologian or better arguer. It is revealed by the life of God within us. There are things that cannot be helped within one who has the Spirit
The life will show itself not by how well we can quote the Bible.

It shows itself in real stuff … like an internal agreement with the very life of God. And that agreement comes out in what we say. NOT what we try to convince others of what we think we believe … but of what we can’t help but say.

The confession of sin is not a ritual. It is not for show. It doesn’t take on any particular expected phrases. Those who are of God KNOW that they needed Christ to have delivered them from their sins. And THAT is what comes out in normal conversation.

And here’s the catch….
This is the kind of talk that we are often afraid will make us sound so unspiritual to those who are “deep” Christian. You know, “committed Christians.” The believers often feel embarrassed to speak honestly among the ones who seem to have it all together. But that is what John brought up with that whole section.

Are you following me at all here?

Well i get it now. Thanks a lot

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Random Shovelquote: Inner Objections (view all shovelquotes)

I say, listen to those objections you hear within yourself and let the lies fall away under the light of Christ.   source