What about 1 John 1:9? Part three.

Posted: Fri. Dec, 22 2017

1 John 1:9
9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Recap so far

There is a lot at stake in getting 1 John 1:9 right. 

In fact, the way we interpret this verse can change how we view our redemption, our justification and our sanctification.   These are the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This week we continue our top-down look at 1 John 1:9.

Last week we examined the author of 1 John, the recipients of the letter, and their relationship with one another.

We established that the author was John the apostle, who also wrote the gospel of John as well as 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation. There are some striking similarities between the letter of 1 John and the gospel of John. We will refer to the gospel of John to shed more light on certain passages in 1 John.

The second thing we know is that the author was one of a group of personal witnesses of the incarnate Jesus Christ during His first advent.

Also, John was well known to the recipients of the letter.  Indeed, he had a close, fatherly relationship with them.

And John, along with Peter and James, was entrusted with preaching the Gospel to the Jews

The recipients of the letter were members of a group of churches who were in close association with John and his fellow leaders.  There was a third group, the opponents of John, who were false teachers trying to deceive the recipients of this letter.

Finally,  the recipients were believers in Christ.  This is never in doubt as we read through the letter.


The circumstances

This week,  we will continue our top-down study of 1 John with a look at the circumstances that led John to write 1 John.

Quite simply,  the opponents - their false teaching, and its corrosive effect on the congregations of believers -   motivated  John to write this letter.

John was deeply concerned about two dangers. 

The first one was the possibility that these believers would buy into the lies the opponents were spreading about God, Jesus Christ, and eternal life. The second concern followed from the first, and it was that the recipients would thereby lose their assurance that they indeed had eternal life.


The opponents

There is a lot said in this letter about the opponents.

In fact, 1 John is about equally divided between passages that expose the opponents (“they”)  for who they really are - unbelievers, deceivers, and hypocrites-, and passages that re-assure the audience (“you”) that they are indeed believers who have eternal life.

So we are now going to take a walk through the entire letter to see everything it reveals to us about these opponents.  

The audience for this letter was undergoing a crisis of confidence in their salvation; it was brought on by the  lies and deception of the opponents. All the things that John writes in this letter relate in some way to this crisis.


The beginning

We begin in chapter 1.

The first four verses of the letter set the stage for the rest of the letter.  So it is vital that we interpret them correctly.

1JO 1:1-4
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life —  2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us —  3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4  These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

Remember how we said that we would be using the gospel of John to help us understand passages in 1 John?

Well, here is a perfect passage where we need to do just that.

Let’s line up 1JO 1:1-4 with JOH 1:1-5

JOH 1:1-5
1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.


Eternal life

Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. Eternal life is in Him.  That life is the Light of men.

The opposite of Light is darkness.  So darkness is the absence of life -  death.

Back to  1 John chapter 1.  When John uses the pronoun "we" here in chapter 1,  he is referring to himself and the other apostles/teachers who joined with him.  These  apostles heard, saw, and touched the Word of life - that’s God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ. They were with Christ. They saw Him.  They touched Him.  They walked with Him and heard Him speak. 

Now they proclaim the eternal life which was in Christ.

They proclaim eternal life in Christ so that those who hear may have fellowship with them, the apostles, whose fellowship, in turn, is with the Father and the Son. 


Complete joy

So now John and his fellow teachers write so that their joy might be complete.

And their joy will be complete when their audience is of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose (PHI 2:1-2).  That’s the fellowship, the unity of the Spirit, in action.

Their joy will be made full when they observe these congregations walking in the truth, and loving one another in obedience to the Lord.

JOH 15:10-11
 " If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.  11 " These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

3JO 1:3-6
For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are  strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church.

In 1 John chapter 1, John presents himself and his fellow disciples in dramatic terms. They had seen and touched God in the flesh, our LORD Jesus Christ. Indeed, they were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.

John wants to strengthen the fellowship between His group of disciples and the churches to whom he is writing. The issue is holding fast to the basic truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and loving the brethren.


A rhetorical device

John then proceeds to use a rhetorical device that will open the eyes of these believers to see the night and day difference between the true apostles and the false teachers.

He puts the words of the opponents in his mouth. This will have a dramatic effect on his audience.

“If we were to come to you and say that we don’t sin, and yet we were doing things that showed we hated you and the brothers, what would you think about us?  Yet isn’t that exactly what these opponents have been saying and doing?”

The opponents wanted to win these Christians over to their false beliefs.  To do that, they had to convince these believers that in fact they - the opponents -  were the real apostles.  After all, they knew advanced truths about God.  They had the real path to eternal life.     So the churches ought to  forget about John and his band of inferior teachers. 


To tell you the truth


Will the real apostles please stand up?

John takes up this challenge right away in the letter. He holds a hearing of sorts. He presents evidence about each group, and  explains what that evidence infers.    The audience can decide for themselves who are the real apostles, and who are the impostors

By using “we” for both groups, John forces his audience to wake up to the fact that the opponents want to replace John and the other apostles. 

So he stacks the two groups up side by side. He alternates between the opponents and the apostles.

Here’s something you’ve heard them say.  But notice how they behave.  What does this reveal about them?

Here’s how we behave. What does that reveal about us?

1JO 1:6-10
6  If we [teachers-the opponents]  say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

7 but if we [teachers - the apostles]  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.

 8  If we [teachers-the opponents]   say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9  If we [teachers - the apostles]   confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10  If we say [teachers-the opponents] that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

A dead giveaway here is that the opponents always go with what they SAY (have fellowship with God, have no sin, have not sinned)…

While the apostles go with what they DO:  walk in the Light and confess their sins.


Light and darkness

The difference between the true apostles and the false teachers is the difference between light and darkness.

In John’s writings, light means eternal life. This life is in Christ.  This life is revealed in the gospel. To know the only true God and Jesus Christ is to have eternal life (JOH 17:3).

So  the darkness is the absence of life.  It is  the rejection of Christ, the denial of the gospel, and the lack of knowledge about God or Christ.  The darkness is the realm of death

1JO 1:5
 God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

ISA 5:20-21
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!

JOH 12:46
46 " I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Who remains in the darkness?  Unbelievers.

Who walks in the Light?  Believers.

JOH 8:12
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, " I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

Who follows Jesus?  His sheep - believers.

JOH 10:25-30
25 Jesus answered them, " I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.  26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.  27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  29 " My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.  30 " I and the Father are one."

We have done this legwork in order to prove decisively the following facts:

  • Those who walk in the darkness in  1JO 1:6 are UNBELIEVERS.
  • If you are a believer, you are walking in the light ( 1JO 1:7).

1JO 1:6 describes the unbeliever.  The opponents are not believers.

1JO 1:7 describes the believer.

6  If we [teachers-the opponents]  say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

7 but if we [teachers - the apostles]  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.

If an unbeliever says he has fellowship with God, he is lying.

On the other hand, believers have fellowship with one another.  The blood of Jesus God’s Son cleanses believers from all sin.


Five facts about the opponents

So already, at the beginning of the letter here in chapter 1, we learn some important things about the opponents.

  1. They are unbelievers.
  2. They do not practice the truth, because there is no truth in them.
  3. They claim to have no sin. But they are only deceiving themselves.

MAT 6:22-23
22 " The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  23 "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

  1. This demonstrates that their father is the devil and they are not of God.

JOH 8:44-47
44 " You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.  46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?  47 " He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

  1. They say they have not sinned. If that were true, God would be a liar. But they are the liars, not God, and this simply proves that God’s word is not in them.

PSA 14:2-3
2 The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

In the next blog, we will continue our examination of the opponents in 1 John:  what they say, what they do, and who they really are.

We will see the extent to which the rest of the letter lines up with these conclusions we have reached in chapter 1. 

Merry Christmas everybody!


Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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