What about 1 John 1:9? part eleven

Posted: Wed. May, 16 2018

1 John 1:5-10
5  This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6  If we 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 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 say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.


Building blocks

We have been undertaking a comprehensive study of this passage, 1JO 1:5-10, with the goal of determining the meaning of 1JO 1:9

So far we have completed our study of several building blocks in this paragraph:  Walking in the darkness, walking in the light, having fellowship with God and with one another, and the blood of Christ cleansing us from all sin.

Here is a snapshot of what we have learned so far about 1JO 1:5-10:

The blood of Jesus God’s Son has cleansed each and every believer from all sin.

All believers have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with one another.

And all believers walk in the Light.

Congregations can know which leaders walk in the Light and which leaders walk in the darkness by observing what they say and teach. 

If the leaders preach Christ and proclaim the gospel message of eternal life in Christ, they walk in the Light.  They are authentic apostles and teachers.

If leaders deny that Christ is the Son of God and hate the brethren, they are false apostles and antichrists.  They walk in the darkness.


“Confess” from the bottom up

In this blog, we are going to learn what “confess” means in 1 John 1:9.  

We cannot really understand what 1JO 1:9 is saying if we do not do an exhaustive study of the word “confess”.

To do that, we turn to the Greek text, and our “bottom-up” toolset.

The bottom-up approach examines the Greek words, grammar and syntax of a passage.

The main tools include a Greek interlinear Bible, Greek lexicons, concordances (especially the Englishman’s concordance), and Greek grammars.

But you won’t have to consult all of these references if you don’t want to do so.  I will do that work and provide the relevant material here.


The Greek word for “confess”

We begin by identifying the Greek word for “confess” in 1JO 1:9.

It is the Greek verb



The Strong’s number is NT:3670

The Strong’s numbering system is the equivalent of the ISBN number for books.  There is a Strong’s number for every Greek word that appears in the New Testament. This makes it easier to find information about that word in different reference materials (such as lexicons).

What does homologeo mean? 

Well, in the same way that English words can have more than one meaning (think of the word “run” for example), Greek words can also have more than one meaning.

And we are not interested in the modern Greek language.  We are interested in the Greek language that was used to write the New Testament. 

It’s called the “koine” (common) Greek. 

Greek-to-English lexicons give us the meaning or meanings of koine Greek words.

We will consult four such lexicons:

  1. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words [“Vine”]
  2. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament  [“Exegetical”]
  3. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (BDAG, 2000).  [“BDAG”]
  4. Greek-English Lexicon based on Semantic Domains [“Semantic”]

We will also make use of the Englishman’s concordance to gather together all of the passages that contain our Greek word.

Homologeo appears 26 times in the Greek New Testament.  11 out of the 26 are found in John’s writings:  4 in the gospel of John, 5 in 1 John, and 1 each in 2 John and Revelation.

Only 1 of the 26 passages refers to confessing sins: 1JO 1:9.


Ramping up the intensity

The intensified form of homologeo is exomologeo.  It appears 10 times in the Greek New Testament.

Exomologeo does not appear at all in John’s writings.  But this word is used 3 times in other books  to refer to confessing sins.

So just  4 out of  the 36 appearances of homologeo and exomologeo  refer to confessing sins.

And 3 out of these  4 use exomologeo.  They are MAT 3:6, MAR 4:5, and JAM 5:16.  Let’s examine each of these passages.


Confession and Baptism

MAT 3:5-6
5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

MAR 1:4-5
4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

In  these passages, exomologeo means to freely and openly confess sins in a public acknowledgement.

The passages in Matthew and Mark describe the baptizing ministry of John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

All of the people who confessed their sins were Jews from Judea and Jerusalem.  Let’s observe the features of this confession:

  • The confession was a one-time event.   
  • The confession was open, public, and corporate (the whole group confessed their sins at one time).
  • This was an act of repentance whereby these Jews recognized and prepared for the arrival of the Jewish Messiah, their King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Water baptism accompanied this one-time confession of their sins.

At this time, water baptism was required for the forgiveness of sins.

We see this again with the first Jewish believers in Jerusalem.

Note  what Peter preached to the Jews who had assembled in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost:

ACT 2:36-39
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified."

37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."


Confess your sins to one another

James 5:16 is the final passage that uses exomologeo for confessing sins.

JAM 5:14-16
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Once again, we have a public acknowledgement of sins to other people, ie “one another”.

The context is sickness. The confession is in the service of the effective element: prayer.

When the elders prayed, the sick man was restored, the Lord raised him up, and, if he had any sins,  they were forgiven him.

It is in this context that members of the assembly were  commanded to confess their sins to one another and pray for one another.

It can be inferred that by confessing sins, people would know specifically what to pray for in order for the person to be healed.


The Jewish connection

By the time that James wrote his letter, he had succeeded Peter as the leader of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.

He wrote the letter of James to Jews who were dispersed abroad (outside Jerusalem and Judea).  Many may have fled from Judea during the persecution which followed the stoning of Stephen ( see ACT 8:1-3).

James identifies the audience for his letter in the first verse:

JAM 1:1
1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

The expression “the twelve tribes” refers to Israel in every other passage in the Bible where it occurs (see GEN 49:28; EXO 24:4; EXO 28:21; EXO 39:14; EZE 47:13; MAT 19:28; LUK 22:30; REV 21:12).

And as late as Acts 21, James is the leader of thousands of Jewish believers who were all  still zealous for the Law.

ACT 21:17-20
17 After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law;

Jews under the Law were commanded to confess their sins and iniquities for forgiveness and atonement.

LEV 5:5-6
5 'So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. 6 'He shall also bring his guilt offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

This concludes our study of exomologeo.


Homologeo in John’s writings

Peter and James were apostles to the Jews.  They were joined by a third apostle who was also sent to the Jews: the apostle John, the author of 1 John.

GAL 2:7-9
7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

1JO 1:9 uses homologeo rather than exomologeo

And again, of the 26 appearances of homologeo in the New Testament, 1 John 1:9 is the only one that speaks of confessing sins. 

The best way to determine the meaning of a Greek word is to examine how the author (John) uses that word in the rest of his writings - especially the rest of the book that you are studying (1 John).

John uses homologeo 11 times in his writings, and again, 1 John 1:9 is the only place that he uses that Greek word to refer to confessing sins.

What about the other 10 times?

Of the remaining 10 occurrences of homologeo in John’s writings…

One has Christ confessing the overcomer’s name before the Father (REV 3:5)

Twice in one verse you have John the Baptist declaring publicly that he is not the Christ (JOH 1:20).

The remaining seven are used for men declaring (or not declaring) their faith in  Christ!  Here are the seven passages:  JOH 9:22; JOH 12:41 ;1JO 2:23; 1JO 4:2; 1JO 4:3; 1JO 4:15, and 2JO 1:7.

For example:

JOH 9:22
22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue

1JO 4:15
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Of these seven passages that declare or deny Christ, four are found in 1 John.  In fact, homologeo appears  more often in 1John  than in any other one of John’s books -including the gospel of John and the book of Revelation, which are much larger books.

John's use of  homologeo encompasses the following range of meaning: 

To acknowledge, claim or profess something, ordinarily in public. [BDAG]

To  declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of fact. [Vine]

To express openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. 

To admit what must or should be admitted or acknowledged publicly.

To acknowledge a fact publicly, often in reference to previous bad behavior.

To affirm and acknowledge  Christ with an open and binding declaration:

Jesus is the Son of God!
Jesus is the Messiah!
Jesus has come in the flesh!

For an open and public confession by which true faith is made manifest.

And, in 1 John, these declarations serve as a means of identifying false teaching.


Antithetical statements

In several passages, John directly contrasts homologeo with its antithesisto deny, to not confess.

JOH 1:20
And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."

1JO 2:22-23
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

1JO 4:2-3
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

Significantly, 1 John 1:8-10 also has antithetical statements.    They occur in the first part of each verse, known as the protasis  (“if)” of a conditional.

The “if” statements in verse 8 and verse 10 are the antithesis of “we confess our sins” in verse 9.

1JO 1:8-10
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Hence, the antithesis of “we confess our sins” is “we say we have no sin”, and “we say that we have not sinned”. These are direct denials of the facts.

By inference, then, “we confess our sins” means that we openly and publicly declare the facts:  we have sin (indwelling sin), and we have sinned.

Next time, we will summarize this information pool so we can clearly and fully declare what  homologeo means in 1 John 1:9. 


Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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