Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What about 1 John 1:9, Grace teacher?

     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

  Whenever one proclaims the good news of the gospel of God's grace and who we already are because of Him, criticisms  immediately arise. Some critics are more abusive with their commentaries and accusations than others. Again, let me emphasize the importance of responding rather than reacting to such criticisms. We respond in love not anger or wrath. 

  Now one major critique of New Covenant grace is the notion that 1 John 1:9 is not to believers but to the unbeliever. Many fight this idea. They truly believe this must be written to Christians. The idea that we are already forgiven is something their minds cannot grasp. Nor will they accept this as truth. This objection should be addressed properly, in love and with the truth of God's Word.

   First, lets say we agree with the grace critics. Let's say 1 John 1:9 is for believers. Ok, now what does our Christian walk look like? One, we must now confess each and every single fault, failure and misstep we make. Now this must include any thoughts our minds wander to. This would include any time are eyes glance at something a second too long. Also, each and every action or deed you know should be engaged in and have not needs to be confessed. 

  So knowing all the spectrum our confession must cover, how should the Christian life be portrayed before others? It is seen in keeping extremely short accounts with our Father. We would need to be truly confessing our faults and failures continually before the throne. Secondly, if 1 John 1:9 is for believers, any lone misstep not confessed; any misdeed, no matter how slight the infraction, unrecalled or lapsed in your mind due to focusing on other mistakes, would equate our sin not being forgiven. Thus, if we were to pass from life to death with unforgiven sin our eternal destination would not be Heaven but Hell. No sin is allowed in Heaven.

  Lastly, If 1 John 1:9 is for believers, then you must believe that each and every time we sin we are immediately unrighteous. If we are unrighteous then if we in the midst of committing a trespass no matter the severity, and we were to instantly pass into death we would be eternally lost. For only the righteous have a place in Heaven.

 Do you see how severe and impossible the Christian life would be if we agree 1 John 1:9 is to believers?  Here is another thought which proves the absurdity of thinking 1 John 1:9 is for the Church. In Mark's gospel what did Jesus state? 

 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26

 Think about this. If we are not already forgiven and a condition of our receiving forgiveness is to forgive others, why does 1 John 1:9 say if we confess we will be forgiven? Which is it? We must forgive to be forgiven or confess to be forgiven? You see how not rightly dividing this Word produces confusion and Law mindsets?

 What is the answer to all of this? It is simple we must rightly divide the Word, and rightly divide the Old and New Covenants. Under the Old in order to be forgiven a stipulation was we must forgive to be forgiven. Under the New Covenant we are already forgiven! Because we are already forgiven we can then forgive others. See how grace supplies something whereas Law demands something?

  As for confession of sins in order to be forgiven we again must rightly divide the Word. Who are we already in Him? We are forgiven. Let the Word prove this. 

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, Colossians 2:13
 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood  Revelation 1:5
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:32
 I write to you, little children Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 1 John 2:12
  I want you to note the word all in these passages. Also notice the past tense indicated of our forgiveness. We are the forgiven. We are forever forgiven. Our past, our present and future sins. We are not just forgiven our past transgression and left to confess each and every sin for our present and future. Yes, it is exciting to know we have a fresh start with God when we accept Him. This doesn't mean God found us, picked us up, cleaned us and placed us on the right path and said stick to this path and if you fall by the wayside it is only by your performance will you gain access back on the path. What it means is God found us, cleansed us and walks with us on the right path. He has forever made a way for us to be in constant fellowship with our Father. 
So who then is 1 John 1:9 addressed to? First, read 1 John 2:12. Here John states equivocally that our sins are already forgiven us. Forgiven already without confession of all our sins. The Word doesn't contradict itself. This is proof enough 1 John 1:9 is to unbelievers not the Church.

 I know that will not satisfy critics so let me elaborate further. In the beginning of the Epistle, John offers no greeting to the Saints. In 1 John 2:1 he does begin with the greeting to the saints. In the first chapter though, he is addressing the unbeliever in the midst of the Church. In case you were unaware unbelievers actually do go to church. In the first 3 verses of 1 John note John details how these unbelievers can have fellowship with the Church. Then he states our fellowship is with Jesus and the Father. 
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;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
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 Christ. 1 John 1:1-3

 Note John differentiates between "you" and "our". He is addressing a particular group inviting them to fellowship. Salvation and accompanying Christian walk is the understood subject. In other words, to come partake of this fellowship, be born again and walk in the new life Christ offers. 

 This introduction followed by the rest of the first chapter in context shows us John is addressing unbelievers. Here is the key to fully understanding this passage. John was addressing not just unbelievers in general but a specific sect of unbelievers, the Gnostics. 

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
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.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
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. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:4-10

  The Gnostics didn't even believe sin existed. This is the focal point of this passage. John inspired of the Spirit was teaching the generations to come that sin is real. That the separation between God and man because of Adam's transgression was in fact a real chasm. Before John could show the solution, which is the finished work, the need for it had to be revealed to this specific group of unbelievers.  It is not Law mixing to explain to a specific unbeliever today that there was a separation between God and man. That God removed all the barriers and now new life is possible if one just receive it. 

 The point many miss though is they believe that all unbelievers must confess each and every sin before they get born again. 1 John 1:9 though written to unbelievers, is not teaching that sinners must confess all their faults. How could they recall each and everyone?What it is teaching is acknowledging your sin exists. Confess or agree with God you are lost without receiving what He has accomplished. Acknowledge your spiritual separation exist. You see when we come to God we just receive Him and His finished work. We don't confess Him Lord of our life. We confess Him as Lord, period! Regardless if you "make" Him Lord He is already Lord. (see Romans 10:8-10)

 There is still more about 1 John 1:9 we must uncover. I just wanted to bring it out that this passage is not to the Church but to the Gnostic unbeliever. Oh one more proof to leave you with. Notice this idea of confessing sins to receive forgiveness is only seen once. We don't create doctrine on a single isolated passage.
  I trust this post has blessed and enlightened you and encouraged your walk with the Lord. If this has blessed you please consider sharing this and telling others. I appreciate your feedback.  Blessings. 


Anonymous said...

I love the gift of writing that The Holy Spirit has given you. I agree, and appreciate that you back every observation and thought with scripture! I've said before, you articulate in a way that is very easy to follow and understand. This IS what the Spirit has been showing me. I love when He confirms it! Thank you again John, for this amazing blog. Crystal

John W Reed said...

Amen. It is the good news of The Lord Jesus Christ that we are to proclaim. Not any traditions or laws or ideology. This is good news. We are forgiven now we who know the depths of our forgiveness and we loveth much.

Jim Adkins said...

Very well put my brother. You seem to have hit all the points that I have ever heard about this verse. Unfortunately this is quite a sticking point for those in which to discredit grace. Gnostics or not the apostle was definitely speaking to a mixed audience. Apparently an audience that did not believe that they had sinned. Thank you for blessing us with this word.

John W Reed said...

Thank you Jim. If this has blessed you please consider sharing it with others.

kismo said...

So are you saying that after l have given my life to Christ, if l sin, l do not need to confess it because l have already been forgiven? If yes, then your teaching is a liberty to sin. This will give me room to sin because l know all my sins(past, present and future) have been forgiven regardless when the sins are committed. I do not need to confess them anymore.

John W Reed said...

Kingsley He also bore all sickness and disease past present and future. Doesn’t mean we don’t ever get sick just means the price is already paid for healing. Just simply receive what’s already ours in Him. Does it make me want to be sick knowing I’m already healed in Him? Of course not.