The Confession of Sins
1 John 1:9 a part of God's will for the present Dispensation of Grace?)
By Pastor Ken Lawson
"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).
Guilt is a killer. A killer of our joy, our peace, our enjoyment of intimacy with God.
It is one of Satan's most effective weapons against the sons of men.
Psychiatrists and doctors tell us that unresolved guilt is the number one cause
of mental illness and suicide. Over half of all hospital beds are filled by
people who have emotional illnesses. Guilt kills relationships, both among
people and with God. We cannot freely forgive others until we first receive
that forgiveness from God.
Our gracious and loving Father has
provided a full and complete deliverance from sin and guilt. But
if we believe a lie and fail to deal with guilt in the way God has dealt with
it, we fall into a snare and it becomes a most grievous and cruel weapon
Guilt is that moral sense of
blameworthiness that each of us feels when we know that we have done wrong. It
is not necessarily bad, for it tells us that we have sinned and that something
must be done about it. Just as our bodies should hurt when they are diseased or
injured, so our God-given conscience should hurt when
we violate what we know is right.
At the beginning, we must realize
that God has not dealt with the guilt problem in the same way throughout Bible
history. This is of utmost importance to know, for so many of the problems
regarding guilt are made worse by people trying to obey God's commands given to
people of other dispensations. For example, under the law
of Moses, the children of Israel were commanded to "afflict your
souls" as the high priest made atonement for their sins through animal
sacrifice (Lev. 16:29-31). The writer of Hebrews elaborates on this Day of
Atonement and the inability of the law to provide complete forgiveness.
"For the law having a shadow of
good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those
sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers
"For then would they not have
ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had
no more conscience of sins.
"But in those sacrifices there
is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
"For it is not possible that
the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:1-4).
Although this was a merciful
provision in Israel for the time then present, the law was inadequate to make
the worshippers perfect in conscience in relation to the guilt problem. The
very fact that the sacrifices had to be repeated was a constant reminder that
God's forgiveness was given out piecemeal, i.e., on an installment plan. It was
never completed. God's people were expected to lament and afflict their souls,
which is the antithesis of a perfected conscience. Indeed, far from being a
satisfactory answer for guilt, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms why the law was
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth
may be stopped, and all the world may
become guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19).
God graciously provided the
sacrificial system of the law to temporarily atone (cover) the sins of his
people until the "precious blood of Christ" could be shed to purchase
eternal redemption for us. Those living before the Cross were "saved on
credit," so to speak, until the fullness of time arrived for the complete
removal of our sins. Even in portions of what we call the New Testament,
forgiveness was conditional and therefore not complete (Matt. 6:12,14,15; 18:34,35; Mark 11:25,26; Luke 6:37c). The revelation
of the Mystery through the Apostle Paul by the ascended, glorified Christ was
yet future from the perspective of Matthew-John. And
so the capstone of divine revelation concerning the total forgiveness of sins
remained missing until that time. All of this is essential to understand
throughout the remainder of our study.
With this in mind, there is one
Scripture which in this writer's view has caused untold harm and detriment to
the people of God. Not because the verse itself is faulty, for all Scripture is
given by inspiration of God and is profitable, but because religious leaders
have so miserably misinterpreted and misapplied its original intent. What makes
this all the more tragic is that it comes not from the enemies of Christ but
from sincere, well respected, Bible-believing Christians. The verse I speak of
is 1 John 1:9.
In order to view the verse within
its context, I ask you simply to prayerfully consider the following passage
from 1 John 1:1-10.
1. That which was from the
beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have
looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2. (For the life was manifested, and
we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which
was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3. That which we have seen and heard
declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship
with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus
4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5. This then is the message which we
have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no
darkness at all.
6. If we say that we have fellowship
with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
7. 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.
8. If we say that we have no sin, we
deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
10. If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.
Are you confident that you
understand verse 9 in context? Let us see. Although men have many variations of
interpretation on this verse, we will mention here only three of the most
1. It is a salvation verse which
tells the sinner how to receive the forgiveness of sins today.
2. It is a restoration verse.
a. Restoring one to salvation or,
b. Restoring one to fellowship
3. It is a verse pertaining to the
Jews under the Kingdom program of Prophecy and has little if any application to
the Gentiles today under the Body of Christ program of the Mystery.
For the time being, I would like to
pass over numbers 1 and 3 and deal directly with number 2. The other two will
take care of themselves as we come to understand the passage. Part 2-a is the most easily answered. This is the view that a saved
person can become lost again through backsliding, carnality, losing faith, etc.
Often a person is told that his sins
are forgiven up to the time he is saved. From that point forward the merits of
Christ's death are beneficial to him only as he is faithful to confess his sins
to God and thus stay cleansed in His sight.
First of all, regeneration or the
new birth is spoken of as a one time experience. No
Bible passage speaks of being born again and again and again. During my college
years, I attended a tent meeting for three nights with some friends. I couldn't
help noticing that the same people went forward each night after the sermon to
receive forgiveness. One night the evangelist quoted 1 John 1:9 and made the
statement that no one with unconfessed sin will enter
heaven. When I pressed him about this after the meeting, he finally conceded
that John probably meant the grosser forms of sin. This underscores another
problem with this view. How many sins did God allow Adam and Eve before they
were cast out from His presence in the garden of Eden?
Only one. And all they did was eat
a piece of fruit that the Lord told them not to. How many unforgiven
sins do you suppose it will take to banish you to the everlasting burnings? Only one. God is holy and of purer eyes than to behold evil,
and cannot look on iniquity. If your forgiveness depends on your confession of
sins, you better be diligent not to forget even one.
The second reason 1 John 1:9 cannot
refer to a restoration to salvation is that eternal life is a free gift. It is
given by God's grace not merely to the undeserving, but to those who deserve
the exact opposite. If God rescinded His gift, that would make Him more
gracious to His enemies than to His own children. God does not take back the
gift if you become unworthy. We were never worthy to begin with.
Thirdly, God wishes for us to enjoy
the gift of salvation. Salvation is of the Lord. Man's only responsibility is
to believe. Does God want us to walk through our Christian lives with a cloud
over our heads? Those who believe that their forgiveness depends on their
continual confession of sins soon find that their Christian experience has
turned into "a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick
The Scriptures tell us that upon
believing that the Lord Jesus died for us and rose again we are sealed by the
Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. Nothing can separate us from the love
of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 1:13,14;
Rom. 8:31-38). With the gospel of the grace of God, we have the pleasure of
declaring the total forgiveness of sins. This brings peace, joy, and stability.
More about this later.
Number 2-b above also speaks of
restoration, not to salvation or even to maintain it, but rather to fellowship.
Those who hold this view understand clearly the teaching of eternal security
and the preservation of the saints. The issue this time is intimacy with their
heavenly Father. Our relationship is like the Rock of Gibraltar,
steadfast and immovable. On the other hand, our fellowship (we are told)
is like a tiny thread which the slightest sin in thought, word, or deed can
break. Perhaps the best illustration of this view is the fellowship between a
father and son. If the son sins against his father, the intimacy formerly
enjoyed by both is broken and the pleasure of each other's company is strained.
The blood relationship of father and son remains intact, but the fellowship
must be restored by confession of wrongdoing. Likewise, Christians have a blood
relationship to our heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. While nothing
can break our relationship as sons of God, fellowship can only be restored by
acknowledging the sin and an apology made, preferably with a pledge not to
repeat the offense. This re-establishes the sweetness of fellowship and the
pleasure with which both Father and son can relate to each other.
Believers who seek to practice this
often speak of "keeping short accounts with God," that is, making
sure you confess sins regularly so your account does not build up with unconfessed sin. Psalms 32, 51, and John 13:1-20 are often
quoted to confirm this position.
This view of 1 John 1:9 has more to
commend it than the previous one. "Confession is good for the soul"
is a truism which holds good for all ages and dispensations. Indeed, Proverbs
"He that covereth
his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth1 and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
In my formative years as a
Christian, this view seemed to me to be logical, balanced and right. I knew
many respected Bible teachers who taught this. Through the years, however, I
believe the Spirit of God was pricking my conscience to show me things which
revealed the shortcomings of this approach. Among them were:
1. It is based on a performance
system of conditional blessing, and shifted my gaze away from Christ and His grace
to my own faithfulness (or usually failure) to confess.
2. If what I believed concerning
confession was true, I was probably "out of fellowship" much of the
time, and so were most believers.
3. There were many things in 1 John
Chapter 1 which are inconsistent with this view.
4. Concerning the popular father-son
illustration, several rhetorical questions could be asked to show its weakness.
What if the son fails to confess wrongdoing? Should the father continue to show
him the cold shoulder until he does? What kind of father would that make him?
Would this be a fitting picture of how our loving heavenly Father deals with
His children today under grace? Further, the phrase "faithful and
just" more aptly describes the judge in a courtroom than a father in the
5. I had to honestly admit to myself
that I found it extremely difficult to confess all my daily sins on a
6. This view of 1 John 1:9 must, of
necessity, occupy a major plank in a person's belief system. Without regular
confession of sin, the promise of continual cleansing is rendered null and void
resulting in broken fellowship. And who wants to be out of fellowship with God?
7. Paul, the apostle of the
Gentiles, is silent in all his writings on confession of sins for forgiveness,
parental or otherwise.
8. Paul's epistles give us a
positive affirmation of total, complete and unconditional forgiveness for all
those in Christ Jesus.
A few examples should suffice,
"In whom we have redemption
through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His
grace" (Eph. 1:7).
"And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath
forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).
"And you, being dead in your
sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He
quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses"
Forgiveness for the believer is now
spoken of as a finished transaction, past history. We do not plead for daily
forgiveness any more than we should for daily redemption. It is a part of the
"all spiritual blessings" with which we have already been blessed
(Eph. 1:3). For further references to Paul's doctrine of forgiveness for the
present dispensation of the grace of God, consult the following Scriptures:
Colossians 1:14; 3:13; Romans 4:5-8; Acts 13:38,39.
It is duly manifest
that we must find a better explanation of 1 John 1:9. A good place to begin in
the context of the passage is verse 6.
"If we say that we have
fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
The key question is this. Are those
who "walk in darkness" believers or unbelievers? How we answer this
question is absolutely critical to the interpretation of this passage. If they
are carnal, disobedient, backslidden believers who are walking in darkness,
they are lying about having fellowship with God. A confession of sin in their
life and "walking in the light" will restore the fellowship. However,
if it can be proved from Scripture that they are unbelievers who were falsely
professing fellowship, the "out of fellowship" position falls apart,
for no one could successfully argue a restoration to something which they never
In order to see which it is, please
compare the following three Scriptures.
"If we say that we have
fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth"
(1 John 1:6).
"But he that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh
in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (1
his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life
abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).
Note carefully the relationship of
these verses to each other and what they teach.
1. He that hates his brother2
"walks in darkness."
2. Whosoever hates his brother is a
3. No murderer has eternal life
abiding in him.
Conclusion: He who walks in darkness does not have eternal life abiding
in him, i.e. an unbeliever.
Once this is clearly perceived by
the reader, the restoration to fellowship theory comes crashing down like a
house of cards. Remove all doubt from your mind. A concordant study of
Scripture reveals that the consistent, uniform appellation to darkness, whether
it be the Word of God in general or to John's writings in particular, refers to
the unsaved (John 1:5; 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35,36,46; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:4,6;
6:14; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Thes. 5:4,5; 1 Pet.
I can just hear some reader object,
"Wait a minute, Brother Ken! What about the man living in immorality in 1
Corinthians Chapter 5? What about the Galatian believers who were `removed from
Him that called [them] into the grace of Christ unto another gospel' (Gal.
1:6)? And how about Peter, when he had to be rebuked by Paul for his hypocrisy
among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-14)? Couldn't it be said that they were `walking
in darkness?'" Absolutely not. It will help the
reader to understand that John does not address how they walk but where
they walk. It is their abiding position in Christ. All unbelievers have
their position outside of Christ and are thus walking in darkness. All
believers in Christ, whether in the Kingdom program or the Body of Christ, have
their position in Him and are walking in the light. A believer cannot walk in
darkness any more than an unbeliever can walk in the light.3
With this in mind, the benefits of understanding the next verse becomes immediately
"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"
(1 John 1:7).
Notice the conditional nature of
this promise. The cleansing of the blood depends upon our walking in the light.
Indeed, all five verses of this section begin with an "if." It is a
test of spiritual reality (verses 6-10). For years I had a great deal of
confusion of mind about this. I read it as though it said, "If we walk according
to the light, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth
us from all sin." I thought it meant that if I was very careful to obey
God's commands and walk according to the light I had, He would cleanse me,
which was just another way of saying that I was cleansed when I did not need
However, when the verse is
understood aright, we find that the vilest sinner may have this cleansing when
he comes into the light of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It does not say,
"If we walk according to light," but it says, "If we walk
in the light." Again, it is where we walk, not how we walk. It is
to walk in the presence of God as an abiding position.
This is the fourth time we have come
to the word "fellowship" (verse 7). How are we to understand this
word in the context? This is important, for it is the main subject in the
chapter. The original Greek word which is translated fellowship is "koinonia," which carries the meaning of sharing in
common, communion, fellowship. Like the Biblical word
"sanctification," it has both a positional and conditional aspect to
In Paul's writings, fellowship is
spoken of as:
a. Giving to poor saints (2 Cor.
8:4; Rom. 15:26,27).
b. Contributing to the Lord's
servants in the ministry (Phil. 1:5; 4:15-19; Gal. 6:6).
c. The fellowship of Christ's
suffering (Phil. 3:10 cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-33).
d. The Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 10:16).
These are examples of conditional
fellowship. That is, we can refuse giving to the poor saints, neglect
contributing our resources for the needs of the Lord's servants, avoid
suffering shame for His name, and choose not to participate in the memorial to
Christ's death for us. However, I believe that the New Testament Scriptures
also teach a fellowship which is positional, permanent and the possession of
every believer in Christ Jesus. Such fellowship belongs to all true Christians
regardless of spiritual growth or dedication.
If any believers in the Bible were
living in a state of broken fellowship, it was the Corinthians.
a. There were carnal divisions and
contentions among them (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-3).
b. They were infatuated with worldly
wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5; 3:18-23).
c. They were judging things which
they shouldn't and failing to judge things which they should (1 Cor. 4:1-5; 5;
d. They were allowing sexual
immorality in the local church and were proud of it (1 Cor. 5:1,2).
e. They were taking each other to
court before the unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:1-12).
f. They were visiting harlots (1
g. They were proud of their
knowledge and causing weaker brethren to stumble (1 Cor. 8).
h. They were questioning Paul's
authority and apostleship (1 Cor. 9:1-6).
i. They were prone to idolatry by
lusting after evil things (1 Cor. 10).
j. They had disorders at church,
including making a mockery of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11).
k. They were enamored with the
spiritual gifts but were failing to exercise them in love (1 Cor. 12-14).
l. They were doubting
the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
m. If all this was not enough, they
were stingy in their contribution to the poor saints (2 Cor. 8; 9).
With all this sin in the church, you
might not think that they were even saved. But Paul, by the Spirit of God,
addresses them as "the church of God" and "them that are
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Cor. 1:2). Moreover,
there is no command to confess their sins in order to receive forgiveness and
restoration to fellowship. On the contrary, Paul assures them that "God
is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son
Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9). It is a fellowship based upon God's
In spite of all the sins, failings
and shortcomings of this church, they were "in Christ" and as such
were a part of "the fellowship of His Son." What was it that they had
in common with Jesus Christ? They shared His life, His righteousness, His
acceptance before God the Father (Col. 3:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6). This is all
the gift of grace apart from works to all believers in Christ and forms the
fellowship which remains our standing in Him.
The fellowship of 1 John Chapter 1
must most assuredly be taken in the same light. What is it according to the
context that these believers shared in common with "the Father, and with
His Son Jesus Christ?" Eternal life (verses 1 and 2). Jesus Christ as the
Word of Life is the embodiment of that life.
There is a truly amazing parallel between
verses 7 and 9. It can be shown thus:
But if we walk in the light as He is
We have fellowship one with another
And the blood of Jesus Christ His
Son cleanseth us from all sin
If we confess our sins
He is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins
And to cleanse us from all
Both verses present the same truth
only from different perspectives. These Jewish Kingdom believers were walking
in the light by confessing their sins in relation to initial salvation. Having
fellowship with God was based on the fact that God is faithful and just to
forgive them their sins. And how many times could they be cleansed from all sin?
If you say until they sinned again, they were not cleansed from all sin.
Likewise, they could only be cleansed from all unrighteousness once
(verse 9). This is further confirmed later when he addresses the believers and
assures them that their sins were already forgiven.
"I write unto you, little
children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake"
(1 John 2:12).
Intimately related to Israel's
religion was confession of sins. Confession as well as its Greek equivalent (homologia) means to speak the same thing, admit, agree,
acknowledge. Moses, writing prophetically, laid out the pattern for confession
under the law.
"If they shall confess their
iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they
have trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
"And I also have walked
contrary to them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then
their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment
of their iniquity:
"Then will I remember my
covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with
Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land" (Lev. 26:40-42 cf.
1 Kings 8:33-36; Neh. 9:1-3).
This is exactly where Israel found
herself when John the Baptist came on the scene. Although they were still in
covenant relationship with God, they had become morally and spiritually
corrupt. And so John was sent as a preacher of righteousness to call the
backslidden nation to repentance. This was in preparation to receive their
Messiah, Jesus Christ.
"In those days came John the
Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
"And saying, Repent ye: for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.
"Then went out to him
Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all region round about Jordan,
"And were baptized of him in
Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matt. 3:1,2,5,6).
"John did baptize in the
wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of
sins" (Mark 1:4).
There you have it. Repentance,
confession of sins and water baptism for the remission (forgiveness) of sins
went together as a unit in Israel's gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35).
Our key verse in 1 John 1:9 is found to be a salvation5 verse for
Israel looking for the return of Christ to establish His earthly, Davidic,
The oft repeated phrase "if we
say" in verses 6, 8, and 10 shows the false profession of fellowship
without possession of eternal life. These were Jewish unbelievers who had a
twofold spiritual problem: self-righteousness and rejection of their Messiah.
They justified themselves before men. They trusted in themselves that they were
righteous, and despised others. They thought that since they were the physical
seed (descendants) of Abraham that God was their Father. For they being
ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own
righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God
(Luke 16:15; 18:9; Matt. 9:10-13; 21:31,32; John 8:39-44; Rom. 10:1-4).
In a gracious demonstration of godly
love, John opens his letter with an evangelistic appeal to his Jewish
brothers to forsake the counterfeit fellowship of darkness and come to the
Savior and enjoy the genuine fellowship of light. This they would not do as
long as they were trusting their pedigree, religion,
and personal merit and rejecting "the Light of the world." Since a
more detailed explanation is not possible in this short paper, I simply invite
you to perform an interesting experiment. Study 1 John 1:1-10 afresh, this time
with the above points in mind and see how much better it fits with the passage.
How could one verse taken from one
non-Pauline epistle, wrenched from its contextual and dispensational setting,
be twisted and transformed into a whole system of conditional blessing and then
used by our Adversary to rob God's people of the very things which make the
Christian life worth living? The answer can only be religious tradition and a
failure to "rightly divide the Word of truth" (Matt. 15:3,6,9; 2 Tim. 2:15). We are like sheep and like to play
"follow the leader." When an outstanding Bible teacher or preacher
teaches something, many tend to follow with uncritical minds. Although God has
given teachers to the church, each believer is responsible before God to study
the issues for themselves and make them their own. Otherwise we are only standing
in the opinion of another. Men at their very best are only men and so are
fallible. May we catch the spirit of the Bereans of
old and "search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are
so" (Acts 17:10,11).
Guilt is a killer, a killer of our
joy, our peace, and our enjoyment of intimacy with God. If
Satan can use guilt (which our Lord has already taken away) to use as a wedge
to separate us from God, his strategy to take us as a captive in the battle is
secure. It makes no difference to him that the guilt, separation, and
captivity are imagined and not real. This is vividly described by the popular
Christian author Hal Lindsey.
"One of the most successful
tactics the demons use in neutralizing their enemies (the Christians) is to get
them to dwell on all of their failures. Once they begin feeling guilty about
their performance in the Christian life, they are no longer any threat to
"Things haven't changed much in
Satan's tactics. Why should they? He's got a winner.
"There's nothing Satan likes
better than to get a believer started on a guilt trip.
"As I look back over my own
life, I realize that guilt is a handle that the Devil constantly tries to grab
to steer me. One classic illustration that comes to mind happened to me my third
year in seminary. One fellow was a real close buddy of mine. We had had three
years of great times together. Then I borrowed some money from him. I told him
I would be able to pay him back in about two weeks.
"After a week went by, I began
to be concerned a little about where the money was going to come from to pay
him. But I had another week to work on it, so I wasn't too worried.
"The second week went by, and I
just couldn't raise the money anywhere. I felt kind of strained around my
friend, but I didn't bring the subject up because I'd hoped he'd forgotten what
the date was.
"As the days went by, it seemed
as though he was looking at me with an accusing expression every time I saw
him, and I did the best I could to stay out of his way. After the deadline had
passed by two weeks, I began planning my day so I wouldn't run into him. It was
awful. I felt terrible to have lost such a good friend, but on the other hand,
I couldn't see why he wasn't more understanding of my problem. Mind you, not a
word passed between us regarding the money, but I felt so guilty that I was
sure he had written me off as a friend.
"Finally, one day to my horror,
I saw him coming toward me in the hall. There was no place to hide! He cornered
me and said, `Okay, Hal, what's the matter with you?'
"`Well, it's about that money I
owe you,' I answered defensively.
"He laughed and put his big
hand on my shoulder and said, `Brother, I thought that was it. Look, Hal, I
haven't changed. I don't feel any different towards you than I did a few weeks
ago. If you had the money, I know you'd pay me. But money doesn't mean that
much to me. You're friendship means a lot more, and I'm still your buddy.'
"For three weeks, I had been
going around thinking he was condemning me. But that wasn't true at all—he was
still my best friend.
"That taught me an
unforgettable lesson. If we think someone is holding something against us, we
become alienated and hostile toward them. It's simply an inevitable reaction, a
"I believe this is the number
one reason why Christians fail in their relationship with God. Because we're
always aware that in many ways we fall short of what we should be as
Christians, its only natural
to assume that God must be displeased with our performance. The more we let God
down, the more we assume His anger, until such alienation sets into our minds
that it is virtually impossible for us to enjoy a vital relationship with God.
"And the pitiful tragedy is
that all this is just in our minds. God isn't mad at us!" (Satan is
Alive and Well on Planet Earth, pages 185,186).
Another illustration from Pastor
Thomas Bruscha might be beneficial to help crystalize
our thinking on forgiveness and our relationship with God.
"Wouldn't it be annoying to you
if you told someone, `I forgive you,' and everyday afterwards for the rest of
their life they came to you and asked, `Please forgive me?'
"Not only would it be annoying,
it would hinder the growth of your relationship. Instead of leaving the sin
behind and growing closer, it is brought up again and again, day after day,
hindering both the growth and enjoyment of the relationship. So many people,
who say they believe their sins are forgiven, spend most of their prayer time
begging God to forgive them. Growth and joy are hindered all because a person
refuses to believe that they have been offered complete forgiveness for all
"My sins (past—present—and
future) have been put away by God forever since I believed. Now, rather than
asking forgiveness every day, I thank Him for it and move on to grow in my
relationship with my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"If you know that you have
received the salvation which is through Christ by faith alone, and you know
that your sins are paid for, but yet you walk around carrying the guilt of your
sins, you have not yet come to enjoy and rejoice in your salvation. Do what
Paul says in Philippians 3:13, `...forgetting those things which are
behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before....'" (Dictionary
of the Gospel, pages 50,51, Grace Bible Church,
Our fellowship with Jesus Christ our
Lord can never be broken but our enjoyment of it certainly can, through a
faulty perception. If you as a believer in Christ are still struggling with the
burden of guilt, I have good news for you. God is for you, He is not
against you, regardless of circumstances (Rom. 8:31-39). There is nothing
between you and the Lord Jesus Christ that He did not take care of at the
Cross. You are now a son of God with all the rights and privileges pertaining
to it. All our sins, failures, and shortcomings were foreseen by Him and
completely answered for by His precious blood. Now what is the response of your
heart to that truth? Is it, "Let us continue in sin that grace may abound?"
Or is it, "Praise God! This is the most wonderful thing I've ever heard.
Lord I believe. Help Thou my unbelief?" Is it a heart response to His love
which motivates Christian service or is it an occasion to the flesh? We need
well to remember what the grace of God teaches us in the life of faith (Titus
Dear unsaved friend, is your guilt
seeking to weigh you down to eternal perdition? Come to the foot of the Cross
and with the eyes of faith look upon the bleeding form of the One who was
wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities. If you believe
in your heart that the Lord Jesus Christ died for you and rose again, the
authority of God's Word guarantees that you have passed from death unto life.
As a child within the family of God you can turn your heart heavenward and
"My sin—O, the bliss of this
"My sin—not in part but the
"Is nailed to the Cross and I
bear it no more
"Praise the Lord, Praise the
Lord, O my soul!"
One final question remains to be
answered. If 1 John 1:9 is not a verse for restoration to fellowship, what
should believers do when they sin? We have a Pauline pattern that is much more
effective in dealing with sin in the believer's life. First of all, we need to
recognize that we don't have to sin. In each situation, spiritual power is
available to overcome sin. God has provided a total victory program over sin to
each member of the Body of Christ. Romans Chapter 6 is key
in the knowledge of practical sanctification. Note especially the words
"know, reckon, and yield" verses 3,11,13.
Other "victory passages" include: Romans 8:1-11; 12:1,2; 13:8-14; 1
Corinthians 6:9-20; 9:24-27; 10:13; 13:4-7; 2 Corinthians 3:17,18; 6:14-7:1;
10:4,5; 12:21; Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:1-21; 6:10-18;
Philippians 2:5-11; 3:10-14; 4:5-9; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13;
5:22,23; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:11-16; 5:2; Titus 2:6-8,11-14.
If sin gets the advantage over us,
the problem is with self, not because God has left us unequipped.
However, because of the infirmity of
our flesh, even the most mature Christians do sin. When this happens,
the first thing to remember is our complete forgiveness in Christ Jesus. This
will prevent us from going on another guilt trip and instead produce gratitude,
love, and stability. Far from resulting in a license to sin, the proper
motivation (Grace) and empowerment (the Life of Christ) will be in a position
to take over.
Further, an attitude of
self-judgment should characterize the repentant believer (1 Cor. 11:31). Godly
sorrow worketh repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) but the
sorrow of the world worketh death (Matt. 27:5; Heb.
12:16,17). At times, the elders of the local church
can be helpful (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Closely associated with
self-judgment is Paul's command to "put off" the old man and
"put on" the new man (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5-10; Rom. 8:13; 13:14;
Gal. 5:16,25). We say "No" to that old
nature which we inherited from Adam and "Yes" to the new nature which
we inherited from Christ. Nothing complicated or mysterious
here, only obedience to the command of God. Although Paul does not speak
of confession in his epistles, Luke does give us an inspired account of it in
relation to his ministry (Acts 19:18). Many of Paul's commands cannot be obeyed
without self-judgment which would of necessity include a confession of sin (2
Cor. 7:1; 2 Tim. 2:21; 1 Cor. 5:2; 11:31,32).
When a Christian sins, we should
agree with God's Word that it is wrong (confess) and forsake the behavior or
attitude by putting off the old man and putting on the new man. So we confess
our sins, not in order to receive forgiveness, but because we wish to be
properly attuned to grace and to thus glorify Him who has forgiven us all
trespasses. Sin causes a disjointedness in the Body of
Christ. When we see ourselves "in Christ," and realize that sin is
contrary to our exalted position as sons of God, we can take measures to adjust
our conduct to conform to the image of Christ.
Finally, separation is absolutely
essential to a life pleasing to God (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). This involves insulation
but not isolation. We separate ourselves from unwholesome and defiling
influences (including worldly religion) and cultivate friendships with
believers of like precious faith who will encourage us to more godliness.
These are not to be taken as
separate steps but as a part of a whole victory program over sin. The Word of
God acts as our teacher, nourisher, and
disciplinarian (2 Tim. 3:16,17; 4:2).
In conclusion, 1 John 1:9 is a
salvation verse which fits "hand in glove" with the Prophecy program
of the Gospel of the kingdom. It is the Ephesians 2:8 and 9 of the kingdom
dispensation. It is a gross perversion and wrong to use it to hound sincere
believers all through their Christian lives over sins for which our Savior has
already answered. God is no longer forgiving sins piecemeal or in short
In view of the "now time
revelation" of the complete, total, and unconditional forgiveness of sins,
the never ending cycle of sin, guilt, broken fellowship, confession, and
forgiveness can only become a treadmill for the flesh. It traps the person in a
personal performance system (works) and dishonors the Christ of the Cross who
died to deliver us from it (Gal. 3:10,13).
We are now members of a New Creation
in Christ and live in a state of perpetual forgiveness. Those who have made the
transition from law to the present truth of Paul's epistles will never end a
prayer by saying, "...and forgive us our sins for Jesus' sake."
My joy was great when I became a
believer in Jesus Christ and knew that my sins could no longer separate me from
God and a home in heaven. But how much fuller my joy became as it began to dawn
on me that all my sins (including those I committed as a member of God's
family) were forgiven me for Jesus' sake. Don't you think it is appropriate to
bow your head at this time and praise and thank Him for His grace? And these
things write we unto you that your joy may be full.
May the God of all Grace lead you from doubt and fear into the joy and peace of
believing unto the praise of His glory. Amen.
"I know that, whatsoever God
doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to
it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it,
that men should fear before Him" (Eccl. 3:14).
1. We have not mentioned the Roman
Catholic tradition of confession to a priest, but one verse from Paul should
suffice to show the error of this custom. "For there
is...one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
2. Take note that the word
"brother" in the passage does not indicate that the one doing
the hating is a believing brother. Rather the racial relationship of the Jewish
brotherhood is described as in Romans 9:3. Although they were kinsmen according
to the flesh, nothing is clearer in John's writings than that a Jew who
believes in Jesus Christ should be prepared to endure the wrath and hatred of
his unbelieving brothers in Israel.
3. That is
why sin in a believer's life is so serious. When a believer
sins, he is doing it "in the light." A preacher once delivered
a sermon on, "The sins of the saints." Afterwards, a woman reproached
him saying, "But pastor, the sins of believers are not the same as the
sins of the heathen!" "Yes," the pastor replied, "they are
4. Several other passages from the
pen of Paul are often overlooked in this regard. For example, Ephesians 3:12
states, "In Whom [Christ Jesus our Lord] we have boldness and access with
confidence by the faith [i.e. faithfulness] of Him." The Greek word for
faith (pistos) often carries the meaning
faithfulness, fidelity, trustworthiness as in Romans 3:3,22; Galatians 2:16;
3:22; 5:22; Philippians 3:9; Colossians 2:12; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy
2:22; Titus 2:10. The context determines. Here the phrase, "faith of
Him" must remain as in the Authorized (KJV). Our access to God is
established since it is in Jesus Christ. God wants us to have boldness and
confidence in this. The "short accounts" (in fellowship—out of
fellowship) system serves only to plant doubt and thus remove our boldness and
confidence. Shouldn't we rejoice that these blessings are by the faith
(faithfulness) of Christ and not by our own? For other passages on access to
God, examine Ephesians 2:18; Romans 5:1,2; Hebrews
5. If it be objected that this verse
cannot be speaking of salvation because faith in Jesus Christ is not mentioned,
they should consider that other well known salvation
verses do not either. See Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans
4:5-8,16; 5:1; Galatians 3:11; Titus 3:5. When this occurs, the body of the
epistle makes abundantly clear (as in 1 John) that Jesus Christ is the object
of faith (1 John 2:22,23; 3:23; 4:2,9,10,14,15; 5:1,5,11-13).