Is there a contradiction?
By: Scott Morton
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
When a person reads the Bible from Genesis through Revelation, they are often confused by some of the things that are read. Oftentimes, a person will state that the Bible contradicts itself in many different passages. The above listed verses would be two that would be used to state the fact that there are contradictions. If there are contradictions, then we would have a problem understanding the Bible. Which text would we have to follow? How would we be able to tell? Can we just pick the passage that we like better to follow and ignore the other one?
Fortunately for us, the Bible provides the answer to the apparent contradictions that are made. The Apostle Paul gives us very explicit instructions on how we should handle these things. He tells us exactly how we should study the Bible:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We are to study the Bible. Paul even tells us exactly how it is that we are to study. We are to rightly divide the word of truth, the Bible. When we rightly divide the Word, we have an understanding that God is dealing with mankind in a certain manner. There is a portion of the Word that is specifically given to the people that He is dealing with and they are to follow what is given to them.
In order to rightly divide the Word, a person has to understand who they are and who the passage is written to. If the passage applies to you, then it is the one to be followed. If the passage does not apply to you, then you should not be trying to make the passage apply to your life. When a person tries to make passages apply to them that should not, they are robbing themselves of the spiritual blessings that they could be receiving from the Word of God if they just made the decision to follow the portion of the Word that has been given to them.
Forgiveness, which is what these two passages listed at the beginning of this article are dealing with, is an area that many people struggle with. Many denominations teach things about forgiveness that just are not true. This leads to much of the confusion that people have in this area. We will take a brief look at these two passages to show what they are talking about and who these passages apply to. Hopefully this will help to clear up the confusion that exists.
1 John 1:9
This is a passage that many people feel applies to them. It is used to support the idea of confession. The verse does state that a person needs to confess their sins in order to receive forgiveness and to be cleansed from sins. However, does this verse apply to a believer today?
In order to answer this question, it is important to look at the context of the passage. When a person is rightly dividing the Word, one of the first things that needs to be looked at is who is being spoken to and the time that this is dealing with.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
This verse shows the context of what this book is dealing with. It is dealing with the time when there are antichrists present. John also identifies this as being the last time. These two things point out that he is making a reference to the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). This is a period of prophecy that is being dealt with.
One of the basic truths of right division is that there are two methods that God used to deal with man. These are the prophetic program and the mystery program. The prophetic program is how God dealt with the nation Israel. An easy way to understand this is to look at the Old Testament Scriptures. God sent prophet after prophet to give the Word to the nation. The mystery program was committed to the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25-26). This is the message that has been committed to us today. We have already seen from just this one verse that 1 John does not apply to the believer today.
I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
We see another idea of what John is referring to. John states that they will be overcomers of the wicked one (Satan). There is no passage in Paul's writing that state that a member of the Body of Christ is an overcomer. The main reason for this is we have already been given the victory, as we are in Christ once we have accepted the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
It was possible for them to still commit sin. Sin was defined as transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). The law is still in place for the people who are members of the nation Israel. This is why the epistles of John talk about the idea of a believer walking properly.
There is a major conclusion that can be made about this passage that most people do not look at. Who is it that is being talked about as being cleansed in 1 John 1:9? Many people state this is the believer that needs to cleanse themselves over and over. However, the chapter does not indicate this. In fact, it is the unbelievers that are being cleansed:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
John states that the believers already have this. The believers of Israel at this time will already have been cleansed. It is the unbelievers who are going to be receiving salvation who are in need of this forgiveness. It is not for us today to have to perform this work.
The Apostle Paul also gives some information about the idea of forgiveness. He starts off with the idea of forgiving someone else of what they have done. This is something that is hard for everyone to do. I am sure that you can think right now of someone that has done something to you that you feel you cannot forgive. Paul doesn't say that the forgiveness that we are offering is conditional. He states that we are to forgive people. We are to be able to deal with whatever has been done to us and forgive them for it. Paul shows what the condition for this is:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
The condition that has been laid out is that we are to forgive someone because we have already been forgiven. The forgiveness that is being dealt with in 1 John 1:9 is already a present possession for the believer. Once a person has accepted the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), they have received this forgiveness as a present possession. There is nothing that can be done that can cause a person to undo this forgiveness and cause them to have to be forgiven again. The only way that a person could be forgiven again would be to have another sacrifice be performed, implying that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary was not good enough.
The sin issue has been taken care of. We cannot commit a sin that would cause a person to lose their salvation. This is the important truth that Paul is communicating in Romans 6-8. It is important to understand who you are in order to be able to live like the person that you are in Christ.
The question that usually comes is what about the other passages that Paul talks about with sin? It should be understood that Paul changes the definition of sin when he is talking about a sin that it is possible for a believer to commit:
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Paul has changed the definition to whatsoever is not of faith. This is not a sin that would cause a person to lose salvation (which would need to be forgiven). There is a consequence of this sin though. This would go along with 1 Corinthians 3 and the discussion about the reward system. The things that are whatsoever is not of faith would represent the wood, hay, and stubble that will be present at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Hopefully this brief look at these two verse has cleared up some of this confusion. The Bible is meant to be understood and it can through a little study.