In 1 John 1:9 who confesses their sin? Who is God faithful and just to forgive their sin? Who is the “we” and “us” in 1 John 1: 9? This may seem a unusual question to ask but if a letter, email or text was sent to you from someone else and you read it thinking it was for you, when it was not, it could change everything. If you thought it was from one person and it was from another, that also would make a huge difference. That is why we should distinguish the author from the recipient. The Apostle John is the writer who represents Christ, his fellow apostles and the church that Jesus started. He is an original follower of Jesus, and his very close friend (John 13:22-24).
He begins the first five verses of chapter one with the pronouns “we” and “us.” John the Apostle refers exclusively to the testimony of the life of Christ that he and the other Apostles had witnessed (v. 1-3). He speaks of Jesus Christ whom they have seen, heard and touched (v. 1-2). They were the people who knew Christ more personally than any of us because they saw him physically. They saw everything that Jesus did and heard everything that he said and he gave them the power of the Spirit so they could give perfect evidence to defend his claims (John 14:28; 15:26-27; 16:13-15).
John was one of those Apostles who was directly commissioned by Christ to carry the gospel message to the entire world (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15). The Apostles were made responsible by Christ to communicate their testimony about Him to the Christians of their day and now we read their writings. Thus, the biblical Christ is the only real Christ. The purpose for his writings according to John was so that people in his day and in ours may have the joyful fellowship which they had with Christ and his Father (v. 3-4). Got it? We were those people that believed in Christ through their word (John 17:20) which are found in the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
That is how we identify who Apostle John is talking to, those to whom the letter is addressed. It identifies the pronoun “you” as the people to whom the Apostle declared the true God. The word “you” has a double reference to those who are outsiders and need to come inside the circle of fellowship and the insiders of that circle of Christian fellowship who need to have their memories refreshed about the truth found in Christ (see 1 Cor 5:12). Clearly this shows that without the Bible, without the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament you cannot know Christ who is the center and circumference of them all (Eph. 2:20).
Now in verses five through ten we see the details of their message about God. These are truths all Christians believe. In these verses the “we” and “us” become a reference to the teachers and their students. It refers to “all of us.” So the whole circle of fellowship of insiders is made clear. While the application of truth regards insiders and outsiders the Apostles are addressing those who are already inside the circle of Christian fellowship.
Another case for the fact that John expected people who were already Christians to confess their sins to God.
See the next article in this series.
©2016 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney
There are days you can feel you are just learning things you thought you understood but I think humility should always be the product of good theology. Don’t you?
So once again lets go into 1 John 1:9. Now it is clear that from this passage that God meets the Christian at the point of their failure each and every time. he is never seeking to punish them for sins that he allowed Christ to be punished for-that would be what we call double jeopardy.
While our sins are already forgiven the UNDERSTANDING of that sin being forgiven must be illuminated to us TIME AND TIME AGAIN.
God in Christ always initiates HIS love acceptance and forgiveness and comes to us when we sin. forgiveness has been secured before our sin but it is secured by our faith and confession in the time of need (Heb. 4:16) or the time we need forgiveness. God will never refuse to forgive us or hold a grudge against us. It has always been his way (1 John 4:10). He makes sure that we know that there is no need for fig leaves borrowed from the “wallowing in guilt tree” when we have the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Our sins are already forgiven by the application of the sense of forgiveness and deliverance from its guilt are applied each and every time we confess.
The Christian has no problem immediately confessing his sin to God -confession means to know, account and yield to the truth that they are not only forgiven of all sins but they are dead to sin and that sin has been conquered at the foot of the cross (Rom. 6). That is why the Christian does not practice sin. They are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to put off the old man and put on the new man.
A genuine believer hates sin and sees it as destructive to their life and others. Knowing the price Jesus paid for sin, Calvary love (agapao) is constantly before their eyes through the Holy Spirit who has poured the love of God (all the work of Jesus on Calvary) into their hearts (Rom 5:8). It is that love that gives them joy not to focus on sin but accept by faith the forgiveness already procured at Calvary for them.
While our sins are already forgiven, as we confess our sins we understand God’s forgiveness and God helps us to put sin out of our lives and overcome them.
This is my humble understanding of the subject so far.
©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney
Jesus has dealt with our sins and removed them. God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.” (Heb. 8:12).
We have God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness forever because of Christ. So why confess them? It is simple really.
1. Christ died not only to forgive our sins but to give his victory over sin to us. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Rom. 6:6NIV).
John says, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:7-8). Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil which are defined as sins power! This is part of our confession as Christians!
2. God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). We were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord and are to walk as children of light (see Eph. 5:8). Christians are not to make a practice of sin but seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to put it out of their life. The reality is this-Christian men and women do not have to live defeated lives (being harassed but habitual sin) for the presence of Christ’s overcoming life (his seed and nature) is in them. We confess that, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:9).
3. They are never to nurture guilt and condemnation (Rom 8:1). We must believe and have faith in Jesus that he has forgiven all our sins for all time (Rom 10:9-10; Heb. 11:6). The Apostle John is not asking Christians to participate in protestant penance in order to satisfy God and obtain forgiveness. Repentance is NOT some board on which we float to heaven. IT IS a change of mind and direction at the START of our Christian walk. We are already on a direction toward Christ as our goal (Phil 3:10-14). We walk by faith not by sight or feelings for that matter (2 Cor 5:7).
God desires us to know that sin does not have to be the rule, nor rule in our lives by guilt or by control. He says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2). The Christian is already forgiven by the presence of his Advocate, Jesus the Righteous who lives in our hearts (Col. 1:27).
©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney
I am taking a stab at what has become the 1 John 1:9 controversy, so be patient with me, I am still learning.
The warp and woof of cults and false doctrine is to make a square peg fit into a round hole so scripture must be interpreted by scripture not by what we want it to mean. OK?
John was writing this to two groups: the Gnostics and Catholics (code for true Christians not Roman papists). Many of the creeds were written due to Gnostic heresies. We are not talking about Agnostics but Gnostics. An Agnostic is one who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God. The Gnostics believed in an elite knowledge that brought an individual a cosmic “awakening” not salvation from sin by Christ. But then again they are not sure how to define themselves! To understand Gnosticism, they say, “one needs something very much like a musical ear. Such a Gnostic “musical ear” is not come by easily. ”
Christians commit sin or sins. Big surprise. The Bible says so. But we confess our sin. We agree with God who have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Gnostics don’t homologeo or say the same thing that God says about the existence of sin in humans and in the world. Gnostics reject the law entirely or as they say, For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.
The Bible says you are a liar if you don’t see that sin is real. In fact, the Bible says you call God a liar if you don’t think so. The Gnostics were such liars. They do not believe man is spiritually dead in sin (Eph. 2:1) but they are in a state of stupefaction and need an some sort of “awakening” from this “stupid” semi-conscious or unconscious state-to knowledge of the universe and transcendence. Gnostics see no need for salvation or regeneration like the Bible teaches (John 3:3-8). They have no need for anything like faith or good works. They say, What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.
But what does the Bible says about sin? It is breaking the law of God. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4-6NIV).
Many who have rediscovered the gospel of grace face the false accusation of being antinomian or lawless. But those who study scripture realize that Christians do not mix the law and gospel for salvation. They understand like Luther, “The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.”
The law cannot save, no good works can satisfy God’s law which demands perfection. In fact the law crushes, “the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through personal effort or even cooperation… first comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life.” (Bavnick).
©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney