What about 1 John 1:9? Part thirteen.
1 John 1:5-10
In our last blog, we covered a lot of ground with Greek grammar, syntax, and semantics. This will set us up to interpret 1 John 1:9 accurately.
Let’s summarize what we learned last time.
First, we learned how the moods of the verbs in conditional sentences determine the class of that conditional.
And it turns out that all five conditional sentences in 1 John 1:6-10 are what is known as fifth-class conditional sentences.
A fifth-class conditional sentence realizes its fulfillment in the present time. And there is no indication about the likelihood of its fulfillment.
It is known as the present general condition.
Next, we learned the three basic relationships that can exist between the protasis of a conditional sentence (the “A” part) and the apodosis (the “B” part).
Back to the five conditionals
Knowing this, we are now going to examine the 5 conditional sentences in 1 John 1:6-10 to see which (if any) of these three logical relationships fit all five.
Why should we expect that all five conditionals would have the same relationship ?
As we have seen, these 5 verses in 1 John 1:6-10 make up a single unit. We have five conditional sentences in a row. Each one is a fifth-class conditional. Each one begins with “If we”.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that all five would display the same relationship between the protasis and the apodosis.
So is there one relationship that works for all five?
One at a time
Let’s take them one at a time.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
We can eliminate the first relationship (cause and effect). Saying we have fellowship with Him and yet walking in the darkness does not cause us to lie or not practice the truth. If anything, it is the reverse.
It could possibly be #3 (equivalence), but that’s a stretch, since there are lots of things we could say that would be lies.
The best fit appears to be #2(evidence/inference). Saying we have fellowship with Him and yet walking in the darkness is evidence that we lie and do not practice the truth.
1 John 1:7 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.
We can eliminate #3 (equivalence) because walking in the Light is not equivalent to the blood of Jesus His Son cleansing us from all sin.
#1 (cause and effect) is a possibility, at least for part of the sentence. It is possible that walking in the Light causes us to have fellowship with one another. But it is not correct to say that walking in the Light causes the blood of Jesus His Son to cleanse us from all sin.
Believers walk in the Light. Loving our brother is the tangible evidence that we walk in the Light. (1Jo 2:10)
Believers have fellowship with one another. The blood of Jesus God’s Son cleanses believers from all sin.
In other words, walking in the Light (loving the brethren) is evidence that we have fellowship with one another. And it is evidence that the blood of Jesus cleanses us (believers) from all sin.
So #2 (evidence/inference) is the best fit for this conditional in verse 7 also.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
This sentence cannot have a cause and effect relationship between the protasis and the apodosis. Saying we have no sin does not cause us to deceive ourselves, and it certainly does not cause the truth to not be in us.
In fact, the reverse is true. If the truth is not in us, we will deceive ourselves. Our self-deception causes us to say we have no sin, when in fact that is not true.
You can make the case that saying we have no sin equals we are deceiving ourselves, but we can deceive ourselves in all sorts of ways, not just by saying we have no sin.
Saying we have no sin is really evidence that we are deceiving ourselves, as well as grounds for concluding that the truth is not in us.
So here again relationship #2 is the only one that fully explains the relationship between the protasis and apodosis in verse 8.
Let’s leave verse 9 to the end.
1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
The arguments here are quite similar to the arguments we made for verse 8.
Saying we have not sinned is evidence that we are making God out to be a liar, and it also shows that God’s word is not in us. Saying we have not sinned does not equal His word not being in us, nor does it cause God’s word to not be in us.
So, once again, here in verse 10 we have relationship #2, evidence/inference.
What about verse 9?
Now let’s take a look at 1 John 1:9.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The other four besides verse 9 are all evidence/inference conditionals.
So it’s reasonable to surmise that 1 John 1:9 would also be an evidence/inference conditional.
Let’s see if that is in fact the case.
Before we do that, we need to look at the Greek again.
In the apodosis (“B” part) of verse 9, we first have the sentence “He is faithful and righteous”. This sentence is followed by the Greek conjunction hina.
Hina is a subordinating conjunction.
The statement that follows hina is subordinate to the main sentence.
This means that the statement that follows hina provides additional information about a verb, noun, or adverb in the main sentence.
And that means that the main sentence in the B part of 1 John 1:9 is “God is faithful and righteous”.
The logic of 1 John 1:9
So the question is: What is the logical relationship between “we confess our sins” and “He (God) is faithful and righteous”?
People confessing their sins do not cause God to be faithful and righteous. God has been faithful and righteous for all of eternity.
Similarly, the statement “we confess our sins” is not equivalent to the statement "God is faithful and righteous”.
So here again that leaves only relationship #2: evidence/inference or grounds/conclusion.
But how is the fact that the true apostles are openly and publicly declaring their sins grounds for concluding that God is faithful and righteous?
That may not be obvious – until you consider the context.
Remember those opponents?
The false apostles had denied Jesus and rejected the gospel.
They denied that Jesus was God, denied that Jesus was the Messiah, and denied that Jesus had come in the flesh.
In so doing, they were also denying the fact that God sent His Son to be the one perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins (1Jo 4:10).
John proclaimed that there was one and only one remedy for sin: the blood of Jesus.
Recall that the opponents tried to portray themselves as superior to John and His fellow teachers. They were the preachers who had the inside story about God and eternal life.
But by denying Christ, they rejected the only remedy for sin.
They had no solution to the problem of sin!
That left them one choice: deny that they had the problem.
So they said that they did not sin and they had no sin.
That way they could claim that they didn’t need a savior.
On the other hand, the real apostles had come to a deep conviction about the fact that they were sinners.
And they also knew that there was one Savior: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His death was the one perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins.
The blood of Christ had cleansed them from all sin and unrighteousness!
And when you realize that all of your sins have been forgiven,
and that you have been cleansed from all unrighteousness, …
you are free!
Now you can publicly and openly declare that you have sinned - without any shame or guilt or condemnation.
Testifying to the righteousness of God
This would be particularly meaningful coming from the apostles and leaders. It showed that they too were sinners who had been redeemed by the blood of the cross.
1 John 2:12
When John and his circle declared their sins freely and openly, they were providing evidence that God is faithful and righteous.
He is faithful to His word, and to His Son’s perfect sacrifice.
God demonstrated His righteousness through the blood of Christ Jesus.
So now the Father can remain righteous and still have fellowship with His sinning children.
1 John 2:1-2
By declaring their sins publicly, the leaders testified about God's righteousness in justifying them as sinners who believed in Jesus.
One final connection
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous [followed by hina] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
One question remains to be answered: what is the relationship between the main sentence of the apodosis, and the subordinate statements that follow hina?
In other words, what is the relationship between “God is faithful and righteous” and “He forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness”?
How does the fact that God forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness connect to the fact that God is faithful and righteous?
What literally connects these two statements? The conjunction hina does.
Now it turns out that the hina clause “He forgives us the sins and cleanses us from all unrighteous”, is epexegetical. It further explains or clarifies the two adjectives that come before it: “faithful” and “righteous”.
Another example of the epexegetical use of hina is found later on in the letter of 1 John:
1 John 3:1
Here in 1 John 3:1, the hina clause explains the love that the Father has bestowed on us.
What the Greek teaches us
If you have hung in there to this point - congratulations! You have just worked your way through some heavy-duty Greek!
Here is a good way to translate the apodosis (“B” part) of 1 John 1:9 –
“God is faithful and righteous, that He would forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We have now completed our bottom-up study of 1 John 1:9.
We have learned about the meaning of Greek words, examined logical relations for conditional sentences, and saw how subordinate clauses relate to the main sentence.
The findings from this study support the following reading for 1 John 1:9:
If we [the real apostles and leaders] freely, openly, and publicly declare our sins, this shows (is grounds for concluding) that God is faithful and righteous, that He would forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Until the next time, we’re all ….
In His grip,
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