Sunday, March 16, 2008

If We Confess Our Sins

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 we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In the last post we saw the importance of recognizing our own sinfulness, and that without that recognition we will not be able to come to the Savior.This time we are going to look at the last 2 verses in chapter 1 and see what we are to do once we have acknowledged our sinfulness, repented of our sins and come to God, and we then find that we are still living in a body of flesh that struggles with sin.

Let me say here right up front that I in no way am indicating that someone can say they are a Christian and then continue in a pattern of unrepentant sin. That is contradictory to the teaching of the Bible in general and to the message of 1 John in particular. (There will be a much more in depth discussion of this topic when we get to chapter 3.)

Before we get into these verses from First John we have to ask a question, do Christians sin? There are many who would say no, but that is not what we see in the Scriptures. What I want to do here is show that as a follower of Jesus Christ who still lives in a fallen world we still have to deal on a daily (hourly?) basis with the presence of sin. After that I want to look at what John said that we are to do about it.

1. Do Christians Sin?

To answer this question we need to look at what the Bible teaches about the believer and sin. I want to start today with a clear passage from Paul's letter to the Galatians. In Galatians chapter 6 the apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
There are 2 important things to point out in this verse: first, in the context of this verse Paul is writing to those who are walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). It is to this audience that Paul then writes, "if anyone is caught in any transgression" indicating that it is possible for a Christian to fall into sin. The second thing we see here is Paul warning the Christians that he is writing to that they are to proceed with caution when it comes to restoring a brother or sister who has fallen. Why? Because they too can be tempted to fall into the same sin. If it were not possible for a Christian to sin Paul, writing through the power of the Holy Spirit, would not have given us this warning.

This verse in Galatians is not the only place where we find the Christians' struggle with sin (it is always dangerous to try and build a theology on only one passage or verse) we can also see this all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few more passages that teach this:

In Romans 7, in the context of wanting to do good and not doing it, the apostle Paul writes:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
And one last passage. This one is Jesus, on His last night with His disciples before He was betrayed. In John chapter 13, as Jesus and the disciples are preparing to celebrate the Passover, Jesus laid aside his garments, put a towel around His waist, and took a basin of water and began to wash the disciples feet. When He came to Peter, Peter protested, and Jesus replied: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8). Then Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (verse 9). Jesus then answered Peter with these words:
The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean..."
Why did Jesus say this? In addition to showing us that we are to all serve one another with humility He was also making the point that once a person comes to faith in Him and repents of their sin their salvation is secure, but we get dirty feet from walking around in this world so we need to wash our feet. There is no need to be re-saved every time you commit a sin, you simply need to confess it to your Heavenly Father, repent of it, and move on.

We could spend a lot more time on this topic, but for the sake of time let's move on to the second question and 1 John 1:9-10.

2. How does John say the believer is to respond to sin?

We now arrive a 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and then cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This verse brings up at least 3 more questions that we must deal with:
  1. What does it mean to confess our sins?
  2. Why does John say that God is "faithful and just" when He forgives us?
  3. What does it mean that He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness?

Let's take these one at a time:

First, what does John mean when he says we are to confess our sins? Is confession just saying, "I sinned, I'm sorry." or is there something more involved? The Greek word used here is the word homologéō, which means to say the same thing as another. So what John is telling us here is that confession is not merely saying that you are sorry, it is acknowledging openly to God what we have done and agreeing with Him (saying the same thing) that what we have done was sinful. For example, according to the definition of the word homologéō if you have just realized that you have been gossiping about someone and that you need to confess it to God you would say something like, "I have sinned Father. I have been gossiping about ... and Your word makes it clear that gossiping is a sin and that it is wrong. I agree with what you say and I confess that what I have done is a sin. I repent of this and will not do it again." Confession is not simply saying that you are sorry; that is obviously involved, but confession is much more than that.

The verse then goes on to say that if we do confess our sins that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, which brings us to our next question: Why does John say that God is "faithful and just" when he forgives us? To answer this question we only have to go to the book of Isaiah and read what was prophetically written about the death of the Messiah; Isaiah wrote:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
According to this verse when Jesus died on the cross He paid the penalty for our sin, so it is just for God to forgive us not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because the penalty for our sin has already been paid. Our faithful God is justified in forgiving us simply because the debt of our sin has already been paid, and to require another payment for our sin beyond what His Son has already paid would be unjust because it would be like a judge requiring a criminal to pay a fine that has already been paid in full.

Finally then we read in verse 9 that "He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John has already told us (verse 8) that we are not to deceive ourselves by thinking that we are sinless, and he has just told us that we are to confess our sins to God. Now he is giving us a wonderful truth that as we confess to God every sin that we are aware of that because God is faithful and just, and because Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin with His blood, that God will forgive not only the sins that we know of and confess to Him, but He will forgive ALL of our sins - even the ones we are unaware of!

John then wraps up this chapter in verse 10 where he once again reminds us that we are all sinners and when we deny that fact we show that we do not believe God's word about us; we make Him a liar and we prove that His word is not in us.
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Journey_of_Life said...

Hi. Nice blog. I respect your devotion to your religion, even though I am from a different faith. I do recognize Jesus(p.b.u.h) as a Prophet and that all the Abrahamic faiths along with their books were sent by God (according to my religion). You can check my blog out too.

jpip said...

Good discussion on 1-9. Paul's use of "transgression" instead of the usual word for sin is important. Paul speaks of sin in the believer's life as unseemly behavior and incidental. By unseemly Paul means inconsistent with one's profession of knowing Christ. Incidental sin(as opposed to habitual)is stepping over the line - transgression.

Sara Schmidt said...
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