Read Introduction to 1 John
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Verse 9 is the reverse of verse 8. Confession of sin is the opposite to the claim that we are not guilty of sin. This verse is a counter-claim to verse eight that Christians are not guilty of sin. The Christian who denies guilt deceives himself.
Verse 7 is cleansing from the principle of sin whereas verse 9 is cleansing from the practice of sin.
The “if” here is hypothetical. Maybe we will confess and maybe we will not confess. It is conditional on our will or volition.
The word “confess” means to speak the same thing, to assent, accord, agree with, concede, acknowledge. The idea is to confess by means of admitting guilt. Confession is saying what God says about our sins – that they are violations of God’s character. Sins are not blunders or mistakes but desecration of the character of God. There is a danger in losing fellowship with God if we conceal our sins.
Confession based on the blood of Christ is our authority for fellowship with God because it acknowledges any violations of His character.
Walking in the light involves increased consciousness of our sinful unrighteousness and taking active steps to rid ourselves of that sin by claiming God’s forgiveness and cleansing through open confession of sin before God.
Believers who desire to walk with God confess their sin openly and frankly to God. We make the judgment that our sins are awful before God. We agree with God in condemning sin.
Confession does not mean to plead with God for forgiveness, feel sorry for sin, to pray for forgiveness, to feel sorry for sins or to make restitution for our sins. No, the idea is to accept the idea that our sins violate an absolutely holy God and that our only solution for sin is the death of Christ on the cross.
Some claim that there is no need to confess sin because we already have forgiveness (Ep 1:7). This idea confuses positional forgiveness with experiential forgiveness. God finally and fully forgives us in our positional forgiveness. In this sense, we never need forgiveness again. God forensically forgives us forever in positional forgiveness. However, when it comes to fellowship with God, we need to confess specific violations to God’s character.
The forgiveness of 1:9 is experiential forgiveness. God always bases our experiential forgiveness on our positional forgiveness. A son may fall out of favor with his family but he is still a member of the family. The issue in experiential forgiveness is not acceptance by God but fellowship with Him. Continual forgiveness allows us to fellowship with God on an ongoing basis.
We always view sin for what it really is – a violation of God’s character. That is why God will forgive our sin based only on the cross of Christ. God forgave sin when Christ paid the penalty for that sin. Jesus meets all of the Father’s holy demands by His payment for sins on the cross. Jesus died in the sinner’s stead; He died in our place. It cost Jesus Christ a great deal to qualify us for forgiveness.
| What is the meaning behind 1 John 1:9? Who is John addressing?
Before even getting into an explanantion, let’s ask the question, after we confess our sins once and He forgives them and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness, what do we do next? Keep asking?? Absolutley NOT!!!! We have already been cleansed of ALL unrighteousness the moment we were born again and became new creations in Christ. We are made righteous in Him. The basis of our fellowship with Him is His blood.
It just does not make sense that Christians have taken this verse and built a whole doctrine around it when actually the entire first chapter of 1 John was written to combat the Gnostics, who were unbelievers. This verse stands as the only one of its kind under the New Covenant. Paul does not mention once in any of his 13 letters. NOT ONCE!! No other verse places a conditional “if” on forgiveness and cleansing. John was saying to these unbelievers that if they confessed their sins (turned toward God and away from the world), God would be faithful and just to cleanse them from ALL unrighteousness. This would be a one time act for those being born again. Please take note of the word “ALL.” For believers, the moment we received Jesus, all our sins were forgiven once and for ALL. We are not to live from confession to confession, but from faith to faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work. Awesome!
Seriously, how many times does a person need to be forgiven for ALL sins? Just ONCE!! 🙂
The teaching that a believer has to keep confessing sins to be forgiven is completely false. It is a slap in the face to the finished work of Christ. If (repeated) confession of sins is vital for your forgiveness, then the Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, has done us a great injustice because he did not mention it even once-not once-in any of his letters to the church.
In the verse before 1 John 1:8-9, John writes in verse 7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from ALL sin.” The moment you receive Christ, the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing you. It is as if you are under a waterfall of His forgiveness that never ends. Amen!
In 1 John 2:12, John states, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” This is a statement to believers. Our sins have already been forgiven.
Over two thousand years ago early forms of Gnostic thought infiltrated the church and popularized the idea that Jesus was only spirit. The Gnostics taught that all matter was evil. Early Gnostics claimed that God would never stoop so low as to take on human flesh. So the apostle John purposely uses physical words in his opening statement to challenge this Gnostic heresy. Later, he says that anyone who does not believe that Jesus came in human flesh is not from God (1 John 4:3).
Interestingly, early Gnostic philosophers didn’t just deny the physicality of Jesus; they also denied the reality of sin. Gnostics claimed that sin wasn’t real or didn’t matter, since it took place in the physical world. So John opens his letter by attacking two Gnostic heresies: 1) Jesus as nonphysical, and 2) sin as a nonreality.
Understanding John’s purpose in opening his letter this way is crucial. Some claim that 1 John 1:9 must refer to Christians, since John uses the word ‘we’. There are preceding and following verses that John uses the word ‘we’ and ‘us’ to politely combat Gnostic heresy.
If we claim to be without sin…(1 John 1:8)
Is John referring to believers here? When referring to people who don’t have the truth in them or God’s word in them, does he include himself and the church in that group? Certainly not! John is politely saying that if we humans claim we have no sin, we’re liars and don’t have Christ (the Word and the Truth) in us. Clearly, John is talking about unbelievers.
To further support what John is saying here, let’s look at 1 John 5:10. John wrote, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given us concerning His Son.” John is describing those that do not believe in God as making Him a liar. He stated the same message in 1 John 1:10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
John is clearly addressing unbelievers.
Verse 9 is a remedy for unbelievers who have been influenced by Gnostic peer pressure and are now claiming sinless perfection. John is essentially asking, “Instead of claiming that you have no sin, will you consider changing your mind? Instead of claiming you’ve never sinned, how about agreeing with God?” He’s inviting Gnostics to rethink their point of view. If they’ll admit their sinfulness, then God can do a saving work in their lives.
1 John 1:9 is an invitation to become a Christian. As believers in Christ, God has taken away all our sins, condemning them in the flesh (Romans 8:1-39). He remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:7-13). Hebrews 10 describes that one sacrifice of Christ is sufficient. Jesus perfected for all time those who are sanctified by His one offering (Hebrews 10:14). There is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:18). Our forgiveness and cleansing are not dependent on our memory, our confession, or our asking. Our forgiveness and cleansing are solely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Amen!
To place icing on the cake, if confessing sins is necessary for forgiveness under the New Covenant, then why does Paul not mention it once in any of his letters (13 letters in the New Covenant)? NOT ONCE!!! Simply because it is not for believers in the New Covenant.
The truth is the truth and it will set us free! 🙂
8/9/2012 12:04:46 am
Very good article. This whole issue of 1 John 1:9 is so simple to understand but 99% of the Body of Christ (especially pastors) get it wrong.
I have for years, been telling people the correct meaning of 1 John 1:9 and have always found a resistance from them to accepting the truth. People get infuriated when you tell them because what you are saying is undermining their belief system.
In essence, they are rejecting the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and in effect saying ” thank you Lord for your work but I STILL have to confess my sins to be forgiven and to restore fellowship even though you tell me in 1 Cor 1:9 (fancy that) that fellowship was established with God when I was saved”.
Now how is this different from a Church of Christ person saying that baptism (in their church) is necessary for salvation or the Reformed position of infant baptism for salvation. Evangelicals rail against those doctrines and teachings but are doing exactly the same. Is this not a false Gospel – the 1 John 1:9 belief?
9/15/2015 04:44:18 pm
so what you’re saying is, Christians never sin! They never lie, they never cheat on their income tax, they never treat their wives badly, they’re just sinless perfection waiting to be raptured right? Can you stand back and see what you’re saying? Of course we need to confess our sins of course we need to repent of things that we do. It’s precisely the Gnostics that were saying that we do not sin or need to repent. This is not about salvation this is about living holy before the Lord.
10/1/2015 02:48:37 am
bro Paul how can you live a holy life,lets assume we have to confess and repent for our sins,are you sure you remember all your sins that you commit each day you repent and confess,not possible.God in His divine wisdom knew exactly,how to help us thats the reason He planned it this way,I suggest you to study the old covenantt of forgiveness of sins in Heb9:12(Ex 30:10)
4/21/2016 08:16:32 am
john is referring to his brethren that had already accepted christ.
if they were non-born again people just confessing you sins will not get you saved, you have to ask christ into your heart and that verse says nothing about that. the word IF wouldnt applie to non believers because their all sinners. IF is replying to born again believers . your not supposed to be sinning but IF you do and repent sincerely not to sin again god will forgive you.
5/10/2016 03:34:18 am
John 1:12 please read.. It is only believing in the name of Jesus, has the authority to call us God’s child.
11/29/2016 11:33:29 am
So you are saying that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to pay for my sins, past present and future? I must confess them all, past, present and future?
11/30/2017 11:24:51 am
I am so thankful for a little church in Alabama that over 10 years ago heard this simple Truth from the Holy Spirit! I can still remember the pastors wife saying to me with so much joy as she was leaving my home and getting into her car …” Now, we get to say THANK YOU LORD FOR FORGIVING ME OF _______SIN”!!!!
8/4/2013 12:06:52 pm
8/4/2013 12:07:16 pm
1/7/2014 03:08:35 pm
Paul wrote just over 1/4 of the New Testament, not 2/3, and he did tell believers to repent of sin – see 2 Cor 12:20-21. Now, if as you say, John is trying to educate Gnostics and give an altar call (in a sacred church epistle of all places) rather than protect his flock, why would he be in disagreement with Paul?
5/22/2014 12:42:48 pm
Paul implores these particular offenders(2Cor 12:20,21) to repent(metanoia-change your mind)-Repentance has to do with the renewing of the mind-and allowing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to work in you to produce fruit leading to righteous living. The word “confess”-not repent is used in this passage)1Jn 1:9).The word confess is the the word “homologia” in greek it means same word, to agree with, to admit ones guilt the good confession-this agrees with Paul in Romans 10:9 “…If you confess with your mouth…” This is in relation to salvation. So Paul and John do agree. John is not merely educating the gnostic infiltrators, rather he admonishing them to admit they are sinners(they deny sin) and to come to Christ for forgiveness of sins!
9/15/2015 04:49:55 pm
you are overall spot on however, John is writing this to believers in order to protect them against false teachers! he does not send letters to Gnostics. He does not write to unbelievers! He is wanting to protect the love of his life which is fellow believers in Christ!
9/15/2015 04:46:30 pm
this teaching is a form of Gnosticism! Your comments are spot on.
10/1/2015 02:52:10 am
dear bro Marcel,Paul is telling the church to repent and not telling them to confess their sins,please take the pain to find out the BIBLICAL meaning of repent
AMOITI GORRETI FAITH
7/23/2014 07:27:57 pm
i agree with you hundred percent but why are we repenting our sins everyday ?
10/26/2014 12:11:21 am
Because people have egos and want to be included in the equation when in truth it is all Him and none of us that does the cleansing. He did it all on the cross. All we have to do is accept Him and our forgiveness is complete. Once you accept Christ asking for forgiveness is like asking for something you already have. And repeatedly asking means that you don’t think that what He did was enough. So you think you have to put yourself in the equation and keep asking. Let’s move on- we are totally forgiven and that’s why its called “The Good News”! Praise His Holy Name!!!
10/26/2014 10:04:55 pm
That would be a great thing except there’s only one problem with that wonderful argument… Greek scholar A. T. Robertson refutes the idea that it is a once for all confession, it reads ‘if we keep on confessing.’” Wuest correctly renders it, “If we continue to confess our sins, faithful is He and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness.” This immediately dispels the myth that confession of sin is a “once off” matter for past, present and future sins, furthermore, it dismisses any idea that this was written to unbelievers for why would they have to repeatedly confess their SINS…if you going to say yes but confess homologeo means saying the same thing, no it doesn’t, in John 1:20 John the Baptist says exactly the opposite of what they said.
10/29/2014 03:11:38 am
I would say this in response to that Marcel, look at 1 John 212 and you can see in the Greek that the word Forgiven is in the Perfect tense, actually Perfect Passive Indicative which means an action having been completed Once and for all Never to be repeated. Jesus said It is Finished in the Perfect tense so perfect tense has a purpose. Passive means you Receive the action not achieve the forgiveness. As for At Robertson a great scholar But 1John 1:9 Is a Present invitation to the Gnostics in other words they as a whole can continue as a whole to be Forgiven it doesn’t mean a constant being forgiven otherwise Why use the word All, and what is Righteousness.. It is Believing in Jesus Christ and receiving His Righteousness. Being cleansed from Unrighteousness is referring to the worst sin which is Unbelief in Christ remember John 16:9? That unbelief in Christ Will send someone to hell because they never received Him. Also notice Verse 2-3 Of 1John chp 1, He clearly is Emphasizing Jesus is Eternal did the church need to know that? Of course not then He says about that You may have fellowship with Us.. That is 2 groups Believers and Unbelievers. Peace Also Repent means change your mind, so 2 Cor refers to Walk as Children of Light, you are not a sinner you are now the Righteousness of God in Christ walk in your new identity.
11/17/2014 12:06:55 pm
It is truly comforting to have 1st John 1:9 explained the way you have.It is however difficult to find people who agree with your interpretation, in particular, pastors.Thanks for clarification of this seamingly controversial portion of Scripture.
11/24/2014 11:07:43 pm
Thank you and God bless you all who are bold enough to tell this truth that has been misunderstood for all times. People want to be part of the saving process. They prefer to confess their sins everyday rather than look to the cross where Christ bored our sins and Rom 8:3 says God condemned sin in the flesh. Many Christians who believe they need to confess sins in order to be forgiven will unfortunately find themselves in HELL because of UN-confessed sins. God is restoring focus to His son. We must keep preaching this great truth. Great job guys.
11/25/2014 03:15:49 am
Having been born again since 1977, I just discovered this truth only weeks ago. I am refreshed with what I have read here. I have a friend who shared this with me after I was wrestling with it. He told me that he has not asked forgiveness in over a year. He simply goes to the throne and thanks God for the forgiveness he has in Christ. Love it guys!!!
1/7/2016 11:41:31 am
Your friend is 100% right on. Welcome to GRACE. I recommend “Destined to Reign ” by Joseph Prince. Awesome book that explains this in detail.
1/20/2015 03:28:50 am
Could you address 1 John 2:1,2? When John says “My little children” I get the sense he is addressing the “church”….not gnostics who he has no relationship with. ” I am writing these things to you that you may not sin”. What things? The things he just communicated 2 verses earlier.
How do you understand this text in light of your interpretation?
1/21/2015 04:20:11 pm
He is writing TO believers ABOUT unbelievers. Believers walking in light and unbelievers walking in darkness. If you do not believe you have sin then you wouldn’t need a Savior so you walk in darkness and the truth is not in you. BUT the verse says, if you confess your sin He will forgive and purify from ALL unrighteousness the whole section is a comparison between walking in dark and walking in light which is believers and unbelievers. As I stated earlier, He is talking TO believers ABOUT unbelievers. I hope this helps.
5/21/2015 08:15:02 pm
Thank God for I am enlightenment…
3/17/2018 05:25:10 pm
I read some of the reply. My questions is when did God put a stop sign on first John 1:9? Provbers 28:13? The Lord’s prayer? Psalms 139: 23? When did God put a stop sign on thoes verses? I understand we r 4given but we live in fleshy body’s and we mess up. How can a Christian hate someone and not ask God to forgive then? God is Holy and we should treat Him as Holy .
3/26/2018 03:41:21 pm
Let The Bible interpret The Bible:
Identify who scripture is addressing:
1 Corinthians 10:32
Thoughts on Today’s Verse
Although an unbeliever can gain much comfort from this verse, it is important to recognize that this is a verse that is addressed to Christians.
For the unbeliever this verse is certainly a glorious word of truth.. that the one who confesses their sinfulness with a penitent heart of true repentance will be forgiven – but this truth must not be divorced from the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Anointed Messiah and promised Saviour, Whose sacrificial death paid the price for our sins and Whose glorious resurrection transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son – making us a new creation in Christ, clothing us in His own righteousness and sending His Holy Spirit to permanently indwell our heart.
We were born dead in trespasses and sins, separated from God and eternally damned.. but by faith in Christ Jesus our Saviour, our sins were forgiven, all our sins – all our past, present and future sins – and we were cleansed from all unrighteousness.
We were made one with Christ, united with Him – positioned in Him, brought back into fellowship with God our Maker, and given the right to enter the throne room of the Almighty .. and find grace to help in time of need. And we even became entitled to call Him “Abba – Father”, by grace through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But although the power of sin was severed at the cross, it seeks to retain authority in our lives and although justified by grace through faith in Christ, we are too often willing to be influenced to sin.. by our old sin nature – our old Adamic nature.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus and nothing can break our union with our living Lord – but sin breaks fellowship with the Father. Sin severs our communion with God. Sin is the barrier that the Christian can erect, which breaks our sweet fellowship with Himself and cuts us off from communion with the Father….. BUT if a Christian confesses their sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Although our post-salvation sins were forgiven forever at the cross of Christ, fellowship with the Father is broken when we allow the old sin nature to direct our lives, which means that the communion we once enjoyed with Him, is broken. But if we take every thought captive to Christ, walk in the light as He is in the light and if we confess any sinful acts and attitudes (whether they be wrong things that we have done or godly things that we have not done) God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and to remember our sin no more.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ died to pay the price for my sins and broke the power of sin in my life… and thank You that in Him I have fellowship with You and free access to the throne of grace. I confess that I have not walked in spirit and truth but have been tempted to follow the desires and cravings of my own heart. I confess doing things that were displeasing to You and omitting to do those things that I ought to have done – but thank You that You are faithful and just to forgive all my sins and to keep on cleansing me I pray, from unrighteousness – thank You Father, in Jesus name, AMEN