Home > Freedom, Law, Sin > Understanding First John 1:9

Understanding First John 1:9

1 John (3:6) Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him.

1 John (3:9) Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.

1 John (4:17) By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world.

1 John (5:18) We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.

Do not be deceived.

First John addresses the problem of deceivers living among Christians. He tells Christians how to know that they are indeed Christian and how to recognize deceivers. It is rather simple, Christians love one another, and they love Jesus. They live in an immoral world by faith. They have conquered the world. They do not sin.

Yes, John says that Christians do not sin. That is hard for us to wrap your minds around. It is not what is taught to us on most Sundays. To say that Christians do not sin goes against our own experience. Nevertheless, as the verses above demonstrate, Christians do not sin. We have moved from a state where sin occurs to a state where sin cannot occur. John makes an unreserved statement that “everyone who resides in him does not sin.” He says, “…everyone fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin… and everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects [them].” Paul comes to similar conclusions when he concludes that we are no longer under the law. He says that the law excites sin, but we have died to the law and its penalty of death. John says that we have life and joy.

We have a profound problem accepting the concept that we do not sin. Christians major on sin to a flaw. We cling to our continual need for confession and repentance. A verse like 1 John (1:9) feeds our paranoia.

1 John (1:9) But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

Christians take that verse so seriously, that all those other verses make no sense to us at all. That one verse brings a lot of pain into our lives. We doubt that we have confessed all our sins. We wonder how many sins we have overlooked. We know that our pride will not allow us to confess some of our sin. We debate about how often this confession must occur. What do we do with forgotten sin? Is it even possible for us to identify all our sins? How many sins do we commit unaware? This verse is nothing but trouble for most of us.

We arrive at one conclusion. We are unrighteous and someday we will have to pay for those unconfessed sins. There will be a judgment day, we will stand before the Lord, and He will review our life, one unconfessed sin at a time. I can see the humiliation on our faces even now. I fear that humiliation as much as you do. This is not a pretty picture and it is one reinforced Sunday after Sunday from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classes.

It is reassuring that that theological construct does not fit the Gospel. It does not fit what John is trying to convey. Our problem rests in what we have been taught. It is time we take a fresh look and find out what John is saying, especially verse (1:9). This will be hard to do in the face of sermon after sermon extolling how sinful we are and how we must be accountable for those sins and how thy must be confessed before a Holy and Righteous God.

Look at those ‘you do not sin” verses for a minute and then try to reconcile them with that one verse that demands confession of sin. You have statement after statement that we Christians do not practice sin. John does not equivocate. He makes simple statements that are impossible to ignore. In that light the, “confess your sins,” verse stands out starkly from the others. That verse is rather unique. In fact, you will not find another like it in all of the New Testament. Seriously, try it. Find another New Testament verse that directs you to confess your sins as plainly as this one does. Let me tell you, a lot of doctrinal weight rests on that one lonely verse.

We find it easy to answer these simple questions. Is Jesus holy? Yes. Is there any darkness, or any evil in Christ? No. Finally, are you in Christ? Of course, you are in Christ. Now stop and think a second. What conclusion can we draw from these simple questions? The obvious conclusion is that if you were essentially corrupt, then God would not allow you to be in Christ. He would not allow something corrupt to dwell in His Son. That is a simple argument. There is no sin in Christ. God cannot allow sin to indwell Him. We are in Christ. We can have no sin in us if Christ is to remain holy.  God wants us to be in Him and he assures that we remain sinless in Him.

John says the following: 1 John (1:5) Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Light and dark represent real things to John. Christ is the light of the World. The darkness is the state in which the unsaved reside. There is sin and death in the darkness. There is law keeping in darkness. There is purity, love, and life in the light. There is walking in the Spirit in the light. In the light, one overcomes the darkness. It is important to understand that a person cannot stand in the light and in the darkness at the same time. That is a physical and spiritual impossibility. We overcome the world in the light. John leaves no room for some middle ground between the reality of being in the light or the darkness.

1 John (5:4) because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. (5) Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

John (8:12) Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John (17:11) I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.

We are united with Christ. We will never walk in darkness. We have the light of life. We are no longer of this world.

Confession, in the Biblical Greek, is a compound word, homo, and logeo, that means “same-say,” or to speak the same thing. Confession occurs when ones speech reflects some inner truth, an inner reality. True confession is spontaneous, unrehearsed, and heartfelt. It is not testimony, or a speech.

There are twelve “If” verses in first John? We are looking at a subset of six of them. These verses address qualities of either believers or deceivers. Here are the verses along with some comments:

(1:6) If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. [Deceivers claim fellowship with Christ, yet continue to walk in darkness. They are liars.]

(1:7) 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. [True believers walk in the light and do have fellowship, not only with Christ, but also with one another. Believers are cleansed from all sin. Believers are always in the light.]

(1:8) If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. [Deceivers deny their guilt of sin. They do not have truth in them.]

(1:9) But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. [Believers find themselves in this state.]

(1:10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. [This refers to deceivers. They will not admit to their sinful state and thus make Christ a liar and his word is not in them. They have no life.]

Verses 6, 8 and 10, are based on what deceivers are saying. These quotes reflect past or present behavior. The outcome of that behavior is certain, when and if the behavior occurs. We can imply that verses 7 and 9 are parallel statements about believers. The first clause in each of the verses concern past or present behavior, which, when they occur, their outcomes are certain.

Verse 9 then, says something true about believers. The confessing is a past or present occurrence. The second part of that verse makes clear when that confession occurs. Look at the promise in this verse. The promise is that Christians will be cleansed from all unrighteousness. I must repeat that, cleansed from all unrighteousness. How much of our unrighteousness is cleansed? ALL OF IT. Sorry for yelling, but if you do not get the point, I will lose you.

How often does this cleansing of all unrighteousness occur in a Christian’s experience? I will give you a hint. It has to do with light and darkness. It has to do with the clear divide between being unsaved and saved. It has to do with the effectiveness of Christ’s shed blood. It has to do with our being “in Christ.” It has to do with life or death. At what point in our Christian experience do we finally speak the truth about the sin that exists in us? At what point do we “same-say” what we recognize to be true inside our very being, that we have rejected God and served ourselves. It only happens once in our Christian experience. It occurs when we confess our fallen state before the lord. We confess the truth that we have denied about ourselves and we seek His righteousness, not our own.

John is not calling on a Christian to be a navel gazer, repeatedly confessing or sins. He is declaring our standing before God based on our true and final confession that we have denied His rightful place in our lives. John says that when we come to Christ we no longer sin, we have the righteousness of Christ in our very being.

John’s 1:9 verse about confession does not place a Christian back under the constant microscope of the law that exposes sin and brings death. John is saying that true believers have confessed their sin and have the absolute assurance that they now have the righteousness of Christ. Christians walk in the light as He is in the light. 1 Corinthians (15:56) ​​​​​​​The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Romans (8:2) For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans (7:5) For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. (6) But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

Romans (8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (3) For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans (8:8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. (10) But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. (11) Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.

Do you see the power of the Gospel to set us free from the absolute curse of law keeping? Christians should be free from navel gazing. We have the righteousness of Christ at work in us. We walk in the Spirit that sets us free to be all that God desires for us to be. We confess our sin once and we are assured that God will make us righteous. That is all verse (1:9) means. It is not a command for navel gazing. It is a guarantee of our freedom in Christ. If that does not bring joy to your heart, nothing will.

  1. May 1, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Hi, Dudley. It’s hard to put into words, but your heart for Jesus, and His Heart in you, both take my breath away this morning. I will share with others I know about you and your work.

    Well done! You are a hidden jewel, Dudley. Why aren’t there many comments here? It makes me sad to see that few seem to have discovered your work, but I know that our God has His timings and uses all things to show us Jesus more fully, and to take us more deeply into our Inheritance of Christ. You have a freshness I love. I love Jesus, I love being in Jesus, I love being clarified in Jesus, and I am feeling clarified as I read your words. Thank you!

    I am in a place where there about no other teachers of His full Gospel Grace, just a tiny sprinkling, 2 others that I know of in my own area here in NY. John Woodward of Grace Fellowship International (GFI), a grace ministry, sent out my testimony in grace as one of His Grace Notes, has offered to help me put one together at Word Press. John emailed about a week ago asking me if he could use my grace testimony at a site he’s putting together for a friend of his. My grace testimony is there now at http://marystinson.wordpress.com/testimonies/lynn-alford/ This in turn led to an offer by John to help me put up my own site on the Gospel of God’s Grace on Word Press, also. This article of yours here, and several others of yours that I’ve read today would be a great blessing to have on my new site. May I have your permission to use some of articles there?

    I don’t use RSS feeds, but if you ever start a list to send out emails of your writings please would you add my address to it? I pray for many multiplied blessings and grace on your writing and proclaiming of Christ as our Life, Dudley. Lynn

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