11-26-2017 Hamartiological Happenings 1 John 1:8-10
One of the “Our Daily Bread” had a snippet that read: A man who walked from New York City to San Francisco totally by foot was asked what his biggest hurdle was. He said that the toughest part of the trip wasn’t traversing the steep slopes of the mountains or crossing hot, barren stretches of desert. He said, “The thing that came the closest to defeating me was the sand in my shoes.”
The Daily Bread then likened this to life and sin. They said:
It is not usually what we think of as big sins that defeat us. Most Christians fall to sins that they do not think are very big—the sand in their souls.
It is interesting how over the years, when I’ve talk to people about sin, it is pretty easy for them to agree how abundant sin is in this world; however, whenever I’ve steered the conversation to their own sins, they were quick to steer it away. According to most people in the world that I talk to, it turns out they never sin! It’s just a problem that everybody else has! As wonderful as it is that I seem to meet everybody who doesn’t sin, I want to now meet the words of the Apostle John--as to what he has to say about this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
8 If we say 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 unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Wow! I wonder what all my coworkers in past times think of this!
John continues his hypothetical hype that started in verse 6 and extends to chapter 2. Verses 6-7 involve a sunny stroll into fellowship and now in these verses this morning, hamartiological happenings are made manifest—in other words, after an admonition to walk in the light, we get a concise lesson in sin’s relationship to fellowship. So, after the interesting revelation: “God is Light” (v. 5), and its application to ourselves (verses 6 & 7), we are now told what walking in the light involves a keen awareness of our sin and even more: it involves confession of personal sin.
I. The Bad News (v.8)
I. The Bad News (v.8)
Sin is the bad news! but the really bad news here is that when we claim to have no sin, we are trapped by the very thing we denied.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Who is the we? unbelievers? or believers?
“If we say that we have no sin” The present tense verb “we have” (ἔχομεν) once again uses the first person plural to include himself along with the readers, and possibly even the other apostles as was the case with the introductory verses. This verb could again be translated “we are having.” If so, this then shows the readers the daily trip ups and falls of those who are walking in the light, it cannot be the sins committed in the days of darkness before conversion. This agrees with other scriptures and even with Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer--that we must daily ask forgiveness.
Okay, What sin then? is this our sins we commit or is this the sin nature we are born with?
well we get a hint of what is being referred to here by the fact that he uses the singular “we have no sin” not “we have no sins” this gives us the idea that he’s talking about sin in general--the sin nature we are all born with— what the theologians like to call The Doctrine of Original Sin.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
This is the sin that is passed onto us through Adam’s first sin
“We deceive ourselves...” or lead ourselves astray from the truth” and have no right estimate of the gulf between our impurity and God’s holiness, if we deny this habitual frailty. In the sunlight even flame throws a shadow; and that man is in darkness who denies his sin. The truth may be near him; but it has not found a home with him—it is not in him. Πλανᾆν is specially frequent in the Revelation, and always of arch-deceivers—Satan, the beast, antichrist, false teachers; it seems to imply fundamental error (comp. ch. 2:26).
As in ver. 7, we have the opposite hypothesis stated, and the thought advanced a stage. Not the exact opposite, “if we confess that we have sin;” but, if we confess our sins.” It is easy to say, “I am a sinner;” but if confession is to have value it must state the definite acts of sin. The context (“deceive ourselves … he is faithful”) shows that confession at the bar of the conscience and of God is meant. Circumstances must decide whether confession to man is required also, and this St. John neither forbids nor enjoins.
The recognition of what is impure and false in us ought to lead us to confess our sins.
II. The Good News (v.9)
II. The Good News (v.9)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“If we confess our sins.” This is the answer to our problems with fellowship! John changes “if we say” (εἴπωμεν) of verses 8 and 10 to here:“if we confess” (ὁμολογῶμεν). Positioned purposely between two false claims of verses 8 & 10 is an honest admission of guilt. Another third-class condition: confession may or may not occur—if confession does occur, two things follow that would be true are not true if confession does not occur.
One may admit to having sinned in the past or even to having a sin nature, but still deny any need to confess sin in the present.
But notice here that John says we must confess, literally, “the sins” (plural) as opposed to sin in a generic sense. This is not a confession where we say, “I am a sinner.” Rather, it is the confession involving naming particular sins. This confession involves admitting to specific sins.
John’s choice of this term “confess” over repeating “say” indicates his desire to draw a striking contrast between the attitudes addressed. Also, as opposed to the self-serving claims in verses 8 and 10, this term indicates a humble as well as honest assessment by the one confessing.
All believers must acknowledge their sin before YHWH in order to experience Jesus’ cleansing work.
The idea behind “confess” is that this is an admission to the truthfulness of something, often of one’s guilt before a judge. The popular adage that confession means “saying the same thing” as God says about sin is also contained in the basic meaning of this verb, though it implies more than just agreement with God.
Moody Monthly hits it right on the nail for the attitude we can have toward sins:
Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.
Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.
Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.
Man calls it an error; God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.
Man calls it an infirmity; God calls it an iniquity.
Man calls it a luxury; God calls it a leprosy.
Man calls it a liberty; God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake; God calls it a madness.
Man calls it a weakness; God calls it willfulness.
ὁμολογῶμεν indicates here taking responsibility for those sins as well. Thus, instead of denying guilt (1:8) or disagreeing with God about the presence of sin (1:10), or instead of asking for forgiveness in a broad, generic sense (or just because we were commanded to), the person goes to YHWH and says, “I am guilty before You because I have sinned as expressed by my willful acts.” Those willful acts are then recounted to YHWH through the confession and wiped away with repentance. Genuine confession include a broken heart and a sensitive conscience.
So, is this confession private or public?
Since the passage does not indicate public worship is in view, but rather daily living, it seems best to see this confession as personal. As we’ll see months later in chapter 5:16–17, where John addresses praying for others’ sins and the issue of the “sin unto death,” private prayer is more in view than public prayer or confession. Nowhere else in the epistle is the issue of public worship an issue. Similarly, James’ call for confession (Jas 5:16) has the elders who have come to minister to the sick member in view rather than the church as a whole. Thus, here it seems best to see this form of confession as private rather than within the public assembly.
This construction of the article with the plural “sins” is repeated for emphasis. John’s point is that we are to confess known sins. We admit to God that we have transgressed specific commands. Again, this can occur only when someone has an honest assessment and sees himself or herself in the light of God’s moral purity.
“Okay, okay, I got it, I need to confess, but Is John indirectly saying that our unconfessed sins go unforgiven?” NO!
Our sins were judicially dealt with at the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) which results in eternal life,
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
but unconfessed and unforsaken sin in the believer brings the loss of fellowship with God and chastisement. (1 Cor. 11:31–33) Confession of sin would not bring fellowship with God, unless the sinner had accepted the finished work of Christ on the cross.
But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—
Notice here also that John didn’t say “every sin” here. This lack of the adjective “every” likely indicates that we are called to confess known sins, not every possible sin—in other words, in our confession we ought not be anxious about if we confess every single sin we might have done.
“He is faithful and just.” We can confess with certainty of forgiveness because God is faithful to keep His promises. We know this because God is both faithful and just.
III. The Ugly News (v.10)
III. The Ugly News (v.10)
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Once more we have no mere repetition, but a fresh thought. “We have no sin” in verse 8, refers to our natural condition; “we have not sinned” (v.10) the grammar here refers more to definite acts. I want you to see the build up here that John is leading up to: First, we lie (v.6); then we lead ourselves into deception (v.8); and now John says we make God a liar (v.10). The whole of God’s dealing with man since the Fall, especially in the Incarnation, is based on the fact of man’s innate sinfulness. To deny this fact, therefore, is to charge the God of light and truth with revealing and maintaining a convincing and persistent lie throughout all time. And again, back to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses/our debts,” this answers the false teachings of John’s churches on the doctrine of sin.
John changes the present tense verb of verse 8 to a perfect tense here, indicating a denial that there is a sin in the past whose guilt must be dealt with in the present. This would then be a claim that one has stopped sinning, at least for a while.
I do want to mention that there are some that read this verse as a denial that there is any sin causing guilt before God, making this verse as just a continuation of verse 8. In this interpretation, it is repeating the denial of verse 8, and possibly intensifying that denial. It is then the claim that might be made by one who admits to a sin nature, but sees it as no longer affecting him or her. This person claims that there remains no sin that needs forgiving. He or she has nothing to confess. Forgiveness and cleansing are once-for-all complete and now unneeded. However, either way you take these false teachers to be saying, one thing is absolutely true: that it is not what God says here! What does God say?
“we make Him a liar.” What John affirms first and foremost, is that if we were to make such an assertion, we would be calling the Great Almighty YHWH a liar. Whereas the denial of verse 8 means we are self-deceived, here the same effect of such a denial is to say YHWH, who cannot be deceived, has been intentionally dishonest about our spiritual condition. John’s use of ποιέω does not mean that we cause God to become a liar, but that we depict God as a liar who is falsely accusing us.
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
This moves from a mere denial to an accusation and is far more serious than the consequences of the first two denials—YHWH either is all Truth or a liar.
“His word is not in us” can we lose our salvation? no!
When John says that “God’s word is not in us,” this is not referring to salvation as some teach, rather, it is a declaration that God’s Word is not changing that person’s life. It cannot be “in” the one who denies sin in the face of what God has said. John literally says that God’s Word is not in us.256 This is likely an ellipsis with the verb μένω purposefully left out for emphasis. Thus he is saying that God’s Word is not abiding in the person who denies sin.
For Fellowship to flourish, the confession of our sins is necessary, and also the forgiveness and cleansing which confession brings. To claim that “we have no sin” (v.8) is to claim that sin is not an inward nature of our fallen flesh. To “say that we have not sinned” (v.10) is to claim that we have never committed any acts of sin. It is a denial of the doctrine of Original Sin and acts of sin which in turn denies the Bible and its Author.
The reaping and sowing principal definitely applies here. We sow sin, we reap loneliness; we sow confession, we reap cleansing and restoration. You cannot get away from this principle, you cannot:
Sow bad habits and reap a good character.
Sow jealously and hatred and reap love and friendship.
Sow wicked thoughts and reap a clean life.
Sow wrong deeds and live righteously.
Sow crime and always get away with it.
Sow dissipation and reap a healthy body.
Sow crooked dealings and always succeed.
Sow self-indulgence and not show it in your face.
Sow disloyalty and reap loyalty from others.
Sow dishonesty and reap integrity.
Sow profane words and reap clean speech.
Sow disrespect and reap respect.
Sow deception and reap confidence.
Sow untidiness and reap neatness.
Sow intemperance and reap sobriety and temperance.
Sow indifference and reap nature’s rewards.
Sow mental or physical laziness and reap a responsible position in society.
Sow cruelty and reap kindness.
Sow wastefulness and reap thriftiness.
Sow cowardice and reap courage.
Sow destruction of other people’s property and reap protection for our own.
Sow greed and envy and reap generosity.
Sow neglect of the Lord’s house and reap strength in temptation.
Sow neglect of the Bible and reap a well-guided life.
Sow thistles and reap roses.
The Apostle John is affirming that the believer who denies a need to confess sin is not thinking truthfully. He or she is self-deceived and not believing God’s Word. John leaves us here to the work of Christ that is the basis of our confession of sin which is the start of repentance. Christ frees us from sin!
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. The moment it went into effect on January 1, 1863, every slave living in the Confederacy was legally free. But until they knew of their freedom, the legal fact had no impact on their lives. In fact, Union soldiers carried hundreds of thousands of copies of the proclamation and passed them out as they made their way through the South during the war.
Christ has set us free from power of sin. We must recognize that fact and live like it.
Is there something today that you need to confess?
Take a moment and confess it to God right now.