Is 1 John 1 for believers or unbelievers?

“Why do you assume the first chapter of first John is addressed to unbelievers?”

This question was put to me by a friend after reading my recent article on 1 John 1:9.

Judging by some of the comments that have come up in various discussion threads, it’s a question many of you are asking:

–    How can you say that an epistle clearly written for churches was meant for the unchurched?
–    Aren’t you treading on thin ice when you carve up the Bible saying, “That bit’s not for me”?
–    Aren’t we supposed to heed the whole counsel of God?

These are excellent questions and I will try to shed some light by looking at 1 John 1. But let me state up front that I do not assume 1 John 1 was written for unbelievers – assumptions of that sort are dangerous. Rather I conclude it based on the evidence, which I will present below.

But first, let me challenge two traditional arguments used to suggest that 1 John 1, and particularly verse 9, is meant for Christians.

Bad assumption #1: The New Testament church letters are for saints not sinners

Actually the letters for the churches were for churches, meaning assemblies of people. They were corporate letters. As such, they addressed issues for a variety of people, including saints and sinners.

This shouldn’t surprise you, but going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. In the New Testament churches there were plenty of people who were did not know Jesus. Think of the “false brothers who infiltrated our ranks” (Gal 2:4) and the false teachers, false apostles, and false prophets who seemed to follow Peter and Paul everywhere they went.

We have this rose-tinted view of the early church as a place of harmony and accord. In reality those churches were fractious battlegrounds between Christians, Pharisees, Judaizers, and outright crooks. Read the middle chapter of Peter’s second letter and you will find repeated warnings directed to false teachers. Where are these heretics? They are not out in the world; they are in here “among the people” (2 Pet 2:1).

How about the antichrist? I bet you can’t guess where he lives. Well there’s more than one and you may be surprised to learn that these antichrists aren’t found in Rome or Washington DC but are among the church. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us” (1 John 2:18-19).

The wonderful thing about church groups is that they are open. Everyone is welcome. But not everyone who comes is a believer. Every preacher knows this and tailors their message accordingly. They’ll have something for the saint and something for the sinner. The epistle writers are no different.

Bad assumption #2: “We” means “us”

John says “we” 20 times in chapter 1, but is he referring to “We-believers” or “We-people” or “We-his-royal-self”? It is a mistake to assume that “we” always refers to a particular set of people in every single instance. We need to consider the context. This is how I read it:

Verse We-himself We-people
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
4 We write this to make your joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

It seems clear that for the first part of the chapter John is doing a fair impersonation of Prince Charles by referring to himself in the majestic plural. Don’t laugh: this habit actually originated with the kings and princes of the Old Testament. (See 2 Samuel 16:20 for an example.) But halfway through John switches to Thomas Jefferson adopting a “we-the-people” voice.

This begs the question, Who are the people? Who is John referring to?

Why do I think 1 John 1 is addressed to unbelievers?

To answer this question we need to look at the “you” that John singles out in verse 3. Who are “the you”? What are they like?

In the following verses John gives us a comprehensive description. Let us consider how this group compares with the typical Christian. See if you can spot the difference…

Verse John’s audience (the “You”) Christians
3 They do not have fellowship (koinonia) with us as we have with God; they alienated from the life of God (Eph 4:18) We have fellowship (koinonia) with Christ and all the members of his body (1 Cor 1:9, 1 Jn 1:7)
5 They need to hear the message that John has heard We have heard and believed the message (Rom 10:17)
6 They walk in darkness We walk in the light (Joh 8:12)
6 They lie and do not live by the truth We have met the Truth and walk in the truth (Joh 14:6, 2 Jn 1:4)
7 They need to be purified from all sin We have been purified from all sin (Heb 10:10)
8 They are deceived We are filled with the Spirit of Truth (Jn 14:17)
9 They need to be purified from all unrighteousness We have received the gift of forgiveness and have been made righteous (1 Cor 6:11, Eph 1:7)
10 They are calling God a liar We agree with God (Rom 10:9-13)
10 God’s word has no place in their lives His word lives in us (1 Th 2:13)

As you can see, the group on the left is unlike the group on the right. Indeed, the people in this group are the exact opposite of what the Bible describes as a Christian. Hmm. I guess that means that they – those John is addressing in chapter 1 – are not Christians. They are not the “dear children” John begins to address in chapter 2.

Was that so hard?

Here’s the punch-line: If you think the whole Bible was written for you, you’re going to end up confused, messed up, and in serious trouble.

We need to have a whole Bible theology but that does not mean “read everything indiscriminately and hope for the best.” That’s like going to the drug cabinet and swallowing every pill in sight. A whole Bible theology means you read the written word through the lens of the Living Word. It means filter everything you read through the finished work of the cross.

If you still think 1 John 1:9 is addressed to believers, that’s fine. You could be right. The real question here is not Who? but What? This is why I say it is essential, when reading this scripture, that we ask the right question.

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103 Comments on Is 1 John 1 for believers or unbelievers?

  1. I agree 100% on your exegesis on 1.John.
    What about preaching the whole counsel of God?
    It was Paul using the expression “the whole counsel of God” about his own preaching. And as we know, he never told the believers to confess their sins.
    About people saying we have to believe, and follow everything written in the Bible. I have been a believer for 40 years, and I have been traveling a lot around the world. But until this day I have not encounter one single believer doing so.

    • True, but I must confess I still do confess my sins, not for forgiveness, more of an apology thing, or habit after having done so for all my life then realising it really is unnecessary.n

  2. Which John is it writing 1 John? Was it the same author who wrote 2nd and 3rd John? Were they written in the order they are currently presented in the collection of writings we call the bible? Were they written before the gospels, as many of the letters were?

  3. Hi Paul, I’m so glad you’re addressing 1Jn in this way. It helps us all to get a handle on it. I also think the principle of interpreting Scripture through the work of the cross, gives us a secure and stable base from which to work.
    For me, John can be a very frustrating writer to understand. I like things in black and white but John at times seems to write in a different colour, but that’s good as it forces us to ask questions of the script.
    Thanks for what you’re doing.

  4. Paul, “Ya lost me at Thomas Jefferson ei?” – I simply love it!

    I also love the 2 column table thingy. I made the same thing in different lens.

    very true when you said “swallowing every pill in sight”. keep it going…

  5. Janice Gale // June 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm // Reply

    Liberating and life enhancing freedom in knowing how to read the bible is crucial but not many people know how to do it. Bible studies all over the country are leading people up the garden path!

  6. I need to read this again…there’s a lot here…

    I heard Andrew Wommack teach on I John 1:9. He said that the church has made this one verse a pillar for church doctrine, and yet, there are no other scriptures that “back up” this one. In the last two years, I have been made aware, by teachings such as this one, and by Andrew Wommack’s ministry and Joseph Prince’s ministry, that the cross provided atonement for all of my sins – past, present, and future. I need to be Son-conscious…not sin-conscious!

    Praise God!

  7. Good job! I agree!

  8. Hoong Poh Cheok // June 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm // Reply

    Paul, it is so wonderful to be able to finally truly understand this truth from the way you brought it out and I am so blessed. Thank you Paul

  9. wow thank you your this…Praise GOD 🙂 this particular chapter has really caused confusions among Christians 🙂

  10. Paul, l agree …however, John immediately starts Ch.2 by explaining why he wrote Chapter 1… so that we would not sin. He then gives the big ” but” if we did sin, Christ’s atoning sacrifice is our defense. To me, its just not an issue as John is saying sin is a BAD thing; he want to encourage us not to do it and live in a different way but, don’t worry, Christ’s atonement is even BIGGER.

    What’s really interesting is what follows in verse 2. That Christ’s sacrifice is not just “ours” but for the whole world. I’m not a universalist, but if I were, this seems like the verse I’d be quoting.

    • Steve, it’s not an issue for you because you’re not reading someone else’s mail. But the question posed at the top of the post is a very serious issue indeed for those Christians who think that John is telling them that they need to confess their sins to be forgiven. Folks like this – and there are plenty – are unable to receive the good news of chapter 2 because they’ve been terrified by the apparent bad news of chapter 1.

      Your other point about Christ being the propitiation for the sins of the whole world will come up again in the next post (or is it the one after?). Forgiveness means to “send away.” The sins of the whole world were literally sent away or remitted at the cross. In a manner of speaking, all are already forgiven. This is why Paul said, “Brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness (noun, not a verb) of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). So why does anyone need to confess at all? More on that in the next post.

      • I have to admit I still ask my papa’s forgiveness when I fall short, but I know I don’t have to do it to earn an position or “right standing”. It’s really more for me I guess. He loves me so much, and Christ’s atonement is so all-encompassing, He probably doesn’t even know what the heck I’m trying to ask forgiveness for 🙂

        But yes you’re spot on that many folk are crippled by a wrong understanding on this.

        Look forward to that future post!

      • Jason Gong // October 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm //

        Hi Paul, thanks for your interesting article on the subject. Your view that 1 John 1 is not written to the church as a whole has a certain logic, but has this theory been advocated as well by any of our leading Christian theologians/historians today? Appreciate your help, thanks. Am doing some research on this.

      • Paul, this does not make sense,as John included himself in the verse, “If we…” Also, if 1 John 1:9 is meant for the unbeliever, as you just said, and it is very true, that the sins of the whole world ‘were’ sent away at the cross, as Paul said, “Brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38), then how can John be advising unbelievers to confess there sin’s if they want to be forgiven? Never did any of the Apostles ask that of any one they encountered. The Eunuch in Acts 8:37, is a great example, as all Phillip asked is if he believed with his whole heart. Romans 10:9,10. Any way, your theology does not add up. Yet, it does make more sense if a believer sins, “if any man sin,” then “has an advocate” to then, confess their sin to and then, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness. Make’s more sense in just quantity. An unbelievers sin’s would be too many (life time), a believers “if any man sin”, would be few! Thanks

      • I would say that the “dear children” of chapter 2 ought not to be confused with those who walk in darkness and have no union with the Lord in chapter 1. In any case, you may be interested in this more recent post on 1 John 1:9.

  11. Aitee Abraham // June 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm // Reply

    I new this since in my spirit but not enough scripture to back it up until Paul brought some of these facts.l think is clear enough to everyone to see and understand it.thanks Paul for this clear and greater light you shed in the scripture.l am also studying the bible in the same light of the finished work of God in Christ. ~Aitee Abraham

  12. Thank you Paul. You have made it so simple and clear. I teach the Bible in Chinese and now I can explain more clearly how I John 1:9 is not for believers by sharing your points. Truly appreciate all that you’ve done!

  13. It’s not written to unbelievers!!!!!!
    It’s jollywool written to believing Jews! Who were affected by the Gnostics infiltration of the church there at that time!

  14. most excellent! i am printing this one out for my bible study group! 🙂

  15. John Senior // June 16, 2012 at 8:49 am // Reply

    If you step back 2 verses to 1 John 7, this puts everything into a whole new light: “But if we walk in the light, as He [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” [NKJV]

    Question: When did you start walking “in the light”? Answer: When you were first born again.
    Question: So what happens when you sin? Answer: The Blood of Jesus is continually cleansing me from all sin
    Question: Do you every go back and forth between walking “in the Light” and walking in darkness? Answer: No, never – because the Blood of Jesus is continually cleansing me from all sin, so I am continually walking in the Light.
    Question: Is Jesus always “walking in the Light”? Answer: YES! And “as He [Jesus] is, so am we in this world”. [1 John 4:17]

    Thanks Paul, for all your work. You are a real blessing.

  16. I’ve been really enriched by your blog since I found out about it a week ago. I always wondered about 1Jn 1:9 as a young believer (how it fit in with the rest of the NT). In my study of the debate, I have found that reading chapter 2 helps clarify chapter 1 (I think you mentioned that too in your last post). For example, John says if we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar and His word is not in us (ch1v.10). But in ch.2, he says, “I have written to you, young men,because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” Furthermore, becoming saved involves admitting we have sinned, so yes, he definitely had different audiences. In fact, there are evangelistic undertones throughout the letter (ch1v.3 for example). Thank you for preaching straight grace.

  17. Paul Harding // June 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm // Reply

    Blessings, mate. 1 Cor 15:34 comes to mind today. The KJV (awaken to righteouness) is closest to the Greek (be aroused righteously) I find. NIV scores a fail as it always made me read it as self-effort (come back to YOUR senses – caps mine). We are forgiven in entirety, and the righteousness we need to ‘awaken’ to is not ours, but His. It’s as clear as day to me now. Thanks again for teachings which emphasize reading the Bible as a forward narrative. This covenant with God as Father – through Jesus – is amazing!
    Grace and Peace to you,

  18. Thanks for putting this together paul:)

  19. Rightly dividing the Word is what we are supposed to do. And you are doing a great job.

    (2 TIMOTHY 2:15 & 2 TIMOTHY 3:16)

    All scripture was written FOR us; and for our learning, but they are not All addressed to us, or written concerning us.

  20. The whole Bible is for sinners and saints.

  21. This is way off… 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; Whom is WE: WE= its the Apostle John, Peter, Matt, Mark, Luke..etc
    because it states:> whom we have seen, touch… they Spoke with Jesus. So, the WE is all the apostles, and believers of that time, that where there with Jesus…Again, WE is the same threw out 1 John 1 1-10

    Yes, in 1 John 1:9 (KJV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. John is including himself in this verse. This chapter, deals with fellowship, and walking in the light and the condition on how to walk in the light. fellowship is different from relationship, and yes fellowship can be broken. has no dominion, but its still dirt(Sin).

    So, lets look at this from Jesus stand point… Mark 15:34 (KJV) There was a significant sense in which Jesus rightly felt forsaken by God the Father at this moment…

    So, Jesus never lost his relationship with the father, but for that one moment he lost his fellowship… GOD can not look upon sin… That does not make us NON-Christian, but, we can loose our fellowship. it mean like it said in 1 John 1 1-10, to walk in the fellowship we have to do this: Confess, to be clean… Never forget God’s Deity. its Light and Love.-There is no dirt) But, We still have a Dirty body (flesh).

    • The fellowship argument is a common way for religion to keep the heavy and carnal yoke of confession on the free but it is based on a different word from the one John uses. He says koinonia which, in this context, means to be a participant in the zoe-life of Christ. The opposite is to be alienated or estranged. John says we have seen and touched and now participate in the life of God but YOU don’t (v.2). That’s why John proclaims to YOU (not we) the eternal life which appeared to us.

      It is gymnastical but nonsensical to say you can have a relationship but not fellowship. It’s like saying you can be dead and alive at the same time. It’s claiming to walk in the truth when you are a liar (v.6). It’s walking in the light when you are in darkness (v.7). Obviously you can’t have it both ways and anyone who thinks they can deceives themselves (v.8). This is why John draws such big lines in the sand.

      What Jesus felt on the cross could not have been remedied by Him confessing the sins of the world. I have written elsewhere on 1 John 1:9.

      In future, please follow the Comment Policy and keep comments short.

      • Fellowship is to participate with someone. To be with them. When we are in fellowship with God it is when we participate with Him. When we mess up and sin we are clearly not, at that time participating with God. He does not sin. John clearly makes this evident. God doesn’t struggle with sin, we believers do. Therefore don’t be decieved by it, don’t lie about it. Come clean about it, start walking in the light right away, be cleansed. None of this speaks of religion, control, or bondage. If speaks of how to walk with a holy God while still being a struggling christian. Anything else, as John says, is to not have the truth. And no I don’t believe that true believers can lose thier salvation. Sinning and coming out of it and into the cleansing fellowship of God is not something that describes losing your salvation and having to get saved again. I would never want a theology that allows me to tell people that when I sin I was in agreement and participation with God. God is not in my sin.

      • jesse, God is not in your sin, but He is with you in your sin. our struggle is not with sin – our struggle is with entering the rest that He has provided us – the rest of knowing that He has already completely dealt with our sin 😉


    • If you think that you can even for one moment be without sin in yourself you are decieved, if you think your fellowship is Dependant on your advances, you have even bigger issues.Your fellowship is Dependant on his Grace and when you fail , there is even greater fellowship. God does not hide from man, he never has and never will , man has hidden from God, and allways will. Sin does not defile God. The man who tries to stand before God in his own strength or his own Holiness will be consumed yes!!!

  22. Dear Paul,
    thank you for your article on 1John 1:9. I know we are forgiven for all our sins when we are born again,so do not need to seek forgiveness over and over again. Can you explain for me please what Jesus meant when telling His apostles how to pray, “forgive us our trespasses etc.” as people often say the Lord’s prayer, even daily. Look forward to your reply thanks. Fred

  23. Bro. Paul, this is one of their reply when I answer them regarding 1st John.

    “In the original Manuscripts of the Bible. . . There was no chapter nor verses. They were just added during our modern times to aid us in locating certain passages. Therefore this letter by John was written not for 2 groups of people but to just one – GOD’s children.”

    Bro. Jervin

  24. What about Ananias And Sapphira? Where is the grace? are they saved? This is what I am debating right now with one of the anti grace minister.

    this is his comment:
    “The Spirit does not only give life but also kills. He kiled Ananias and Sapphira instantly without mercy although they both were save by grace thru faith. But they broke the 10th, 8th and 9th Commandments. They coveted, stole and lied to the Holy Spirit Who was supposed to give life? Let us not see things in just one point of view. Be complete.”

    What do you think Paul?

    • If the Holy Spirit’s a killer then he’s not the Spirit of Christ that both Paul and Peter said he is. If the Holy Spirit gives and takes away then he is not the Spirit of God whose gifts are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). If the Holy Spirit gives away then Job was right and Jesus was wrong.

      • andrewjohnchapman // August 22, 2013 at 12:15 am //

        What is your understanding of 1 Samuel 2:6 – “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. And Deuteronomy 32:39 – See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.


    • The scripture nevers says that Ananias & Sapphirs were believers but it does not say that theye were not either. It would be very hard for God to kill them for their “sin” because all true believers have been sanctified “once for ever” according to Hebrews 10:10 &14

  25. Thanks Paul…..What about Ananias and Sapphira? I heard Joseph Prince teaching on this. What is your stand?

    • If they were killed by God for their sin, then the sin of the world wasn’t done away with at the cross and pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the NT is wrong. I don’t know. Maybe they were killed by the Lord’s angelos, his messenger, meaning Peter. Life and death are in the power of the tongue and Peter sure knew how to shoot his mouth off. Afterall, he’d seen Jesus kill a fig tree with words alone.

      Update: Check out my new post on Ananias and Sapphira.

      • Hi Paul,

        Pastor Prince has a very good position on this. He believes that these 2 person are NOT believers. In the book of Acts, ALL believers are described by the author as “A certain disciple named….”. Non-believers are all described as “A certain man named…”. It is very consistent throughout the Book of Acts… As you read the book of Acts, you will find that consistently, all believers are called a certain disciple and all non-believers (including Ananias and Sapphira) are called a certain man.

        The thing is this: God’s grace superabounds ALL sins of a believer. Yes, God may correct the believer. Yes, the believer has to face consequences of his wrong-doings because of the state laws. But God will never abandon the person, nor stuck him dead. It is just in God’s nature.
        He is love!

      • Thanks Kit Fan. I have heard this. My view is it makes no difference whether they were believers or unbelievers – God didn’t kill them. God doesn’t judge unbelievers (yet!) any more than he kills children in earthquakes. If he did, then the cross wasn’t the once and final solution for the sins of the world. Telling people that “there was something different about A&S and that is why this bad thing happened” inevitably puts people in boxes. It divides according to divisions God is not (yet) making. One day he will parse the sheep from the goats, the wheat and the weeds. But his eternal character is such that he is not willing that any, including A&S, should perish.

      • andrewjohnchapman // August 22, 2013 at 12:31 am //

        ‘As you read the book of Acts, you will find that consistently, all believers are called a certain disciple and all non-believers (including Ananias and Sapphira) are called a certain man.’ I am not sure what this means. Believers are often called men – see Acts 4:4, 5:14, 6:3, 6:5, 9:12, 11:20 (certain of them, men from Cyprus – τινες ἐξ αὐτῶν ἄνδρες Κύπριοι), 11:24, 15:22 (x2), 15:25, 22:12 (a certain Ananias, a pious man – Ἁνανίας δέ τις ἀνὴρ εὐλαβὴς).


    • That’s what we would all like to know! But I have already given my best guess above.

      • andrewjohnchapman // August 22, 2013 at 12:21 am //

        But Peter didn’t ‘shoot his mouth’ off at Ananias. He said ‘While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ Nothing there about falling down dead. God killed him.


      • This is very interesting indeed. I see here much justification here for potitions. Usually to justify the hyper grace stance. The Holy Spirit killed Them. That is obvious. So how does that line up with your teaching on 1 John 1:9? Not so good. We can be saved by grace through faith and still have current sin in our lives that needs to be dealt with. So deal with it and move one get over it. Walk in the grace and serve God. Some times God will quicken us about this. Why? So we realy on His mercy grace and move forward. 1st john is an epistle is it not? Who are the Epistles written to? The churches. Why in Revelation 2 written to the churches Jesus speaking commends them on some things, reminds them where they fall short then gives them an out. Repent! So 1 John 1:9 is not the only place this teaching is shown. Its ok to love God be reminded to cling to his grace repent and move forward. Himbling ourselves still appies today. A Father who loves His children still corrects them.
        Shalom Barry

      • Except the Holy Spirit is not sin and nowhere in Revelation does Jesus sell forgiveness for the price of confession. Sin is destructive. Whether you’re a believer or not, sow to the flesh and you will reap bad stuff. This has nothing to do with divine wrath. The Holy Spirit does not kill those whom Jesus died for and neither does any “loving” Father.

  26. Hi Paul, in saying vs.6-10 are for unbelievers, I take it you mean to say the “if we confess our sins” part in vs.9 is applicable to pre-believers but not for believers. However, using that same logic, would you be saying as well that the “if we walk in the light” part in vs.7 is applicable to pre-believers and not to believers?

    • Jason, there is a danger splitting hairs here. My point in this post is to say that those who have been cleansed from all unrighteousness do not need to ask God to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. If they did, they would be operating in unbelief. Similarly, those who have received the gift of God’s grace (which includes forgiveness), do not need to ask for it again. Again, if they did, they would be operating in unbelief.

      If you haven’t received God’s grace, receive it! If you have received it, stop asking him to give it to you and thank Him.

      • Thanks for your reply Paul. I get your point, but considering 1 John 1:9 on its own, you could just as easily say “if we confess our sins” applies to believers after conversion or only to pre-believers. To get a better understanding what John means, we should consider 1 John 1:7. And since 1 John 1:7 if we walk in the light should logically apply to believers after conversion, so shouldn’t 1 John 1:9 apply as well? Appreciate your indulgence in working out this train of reasoning, Paul.

      • I disagree for numerous reasons. As I explain elsewhere, 1 John 1:9 is not a formula for getting God to forgive us. If it is, then John was sleeping when the Lord preached unconditional forgiveness as a gift to be received.

        I also disagree with your view that v.7 applies to believers. Here’s why: “If we turn the light on, the room will be lit.” This statement expresses a causal relationship without making any assumptions about whether the lights are on or off. However, since it would be silly to make such a statement after we have turned the lights on, we can reasonably conclude that we have not turned the lights on.

        John makes a similar statement in v.7. “If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Such a statement makes no assumptions about whether we are walking or not walking in the light. However, since it would be silly to exhort people who are walking in the light to walk in the light, and given the context of the surrounding verses (see Table in the post), we can reasonably conclude John is addressing people who are not walking in the light.

      • Hi Paul, let’s say we both agree that 1 John 1 was preached to unbelievers.
        And we have both agreed that John includes himself and other Christians as walking in the light. So John says to unbelievers, “if you walk in the light as we do, the blood of Jesus purifies you from all sin. So logically, John should also say to unbelievers “If you confess your sins as we do, God will forgive you and purify you from all unrighteousness.”

        Another thing, isn’t the Greek translation for both “walk in the light” and “confess your sins” both present continuous – meaning it should be read “continuing to walk in the light”, and “continuing to confess your sins”. So the language itself indicates not a one time action, but a continuous action?

      • I believe the word all in 1 John 1:9 is referring to all “pas” as in every kind of, of all types of unrighteousness. There is no unrighteousness that Jesus can’t forgive is the point. Same word is used in Ephesians 5:3 “But fornication, and all G3956 uncleanness…” meaning every kind or type of uncleanness.

        There is a balance we can have to the scriptures that falls right in the middle of Calvinism vs Arminianism. The Bible in a sense teaches both. We can try to reason it all out or we can take the Truth of the entirety of the Word and believe it.

    • I’ve learned a lot from you my bothers…
      ….hi Jason… Just wanna know your stand here… Okay, so, undoubtedly you believe
      That 1john 1:9 is for you…It says that “IF (remember if) we CONFESS our SINS (remember SINS), he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our SINS and purify us From ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.) 

      In the same as to you; IF (if only: that’s a warning) you confess your sinS ( all your sins, you need to confess them, not omitting 1 or two, and the things your committing and about to commit), he is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness. The same way, if you DON’T  confess your sins ( all), he is faithful and JUST ( it says JUST / GOd is a JUST GOD) NOT to forgive you your Sins and purify you from all righteousness.  
      Kind a, a challenge for you. Remember always (every moment and every second you commit sin)  to confess your sins and you will be forgiven coz if it’s not… You will not be forgiven and be cleansed…
      Just wanna share my thoughts  😊and I thank you for both of you nice discussion, I’m also a just like you … Seeking the LORD…. Our all in all. GOD BLESS! 

      • Hi Mel, thanks for your comments. I see your understanding of confess your sins is you have to remember every single sin you commit and if you have to remember even a single one, you are unforgiven. I believe this is wrong teaching, burdens Christians with an impossible task and probably why so many go the other extreme and say you don’t even need to confess at all. Think back to the Lord’s prayer. We simply pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. It doesn’t say, stop at that part, drum up every single sin you can remember and then some more… before going on with the prayer. Consistent with earlier parts of John about acknowledging we are sinners, confessing our sins is acknowledging that we still sin while on earth, but we trust in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Paul did write a very good article on the benefits of confessing our sins, but of course does not make a “requirement” as that would be against “grace” theory. For me, as in other parts of Scripture, since the Lord advocated it in the Lord’s prayer and John repeats it again, my view is that Christians should incorporate confessing our sins as part of following Christ. Again, its not trying to remember every single sin, but confessing in general all sins we may have committed, and then specific sins that the Holy Spirit brings to mind.
        In the Psalms, David speaks about God searching His heart and bringing up any way which is not right. Thanks again Mel,God bless, Jason

      • Greetings bro. Jason,

        We are going too far and I know we have our own ideas and I respect that. Let me put this conversation in a common denominator. 

        Okay, I believe that you and are both born again Christian. I assumed that you are a born again Christian which I believe. We are forgiven (past, present, and future sins). We are washed and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb. We trust int the precious blood  of the Lamb. We trust in the blood of Jesus that cleansed us from all unrighteousness as you said. And we seek to please God and bring glory to his name.

        On the other hand, Yes! We are born again, new creation, the old has gone and the new has come but we still fail and commit sin. We no longer live in sin but we still commit sin (that’s a big difference). We hate sin in fact. We don’t delight in sin and we don’t feel good about it when we sin. 
        You and I have one desire and that is not to live to fail and live in sin but to seek and to please Jesus. That’s our focus and that’s it. 
        Okay, with respect to our conversation; for you, when you commit fail and you commit sin, you confess of it. Maybe your asking the Lord to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Well, go for it. One thing I know you heart’s desire is to please him. And we have the same desire. 
        But for me, when I fail, when I commit sin, I look back at the cross, remembering that I am forgiven, I am cleansed and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb. I trust in the blood if Jesus that cleansED from all unrighteousness. I reflect on the goodness of the Lord. I think about his love, his goodness, and his grace that will see me through. And maybe you’ll ask, where is my repentance ? Actually, the  more i focus for who he is the more I’m compelled to love him and please my Lord. The bible said that … The goodness of the Lord leads you to repentance..

        Well, God bless us. The Lord strengthen us that even when we fail our faith will not. 
        Your bro. In Christ Mel B. 

  27. I agree that When you accepted Christ as your Lord, He died for your past, present , and future sins. I believe we try to put Christ back onto the cross when we think that anytime we sin in our flesh, we have to ask God to forgive us. The bible tells us that christ cannot come back to die for the second time, it was done and His work was finished for all time. When God says that He does not remember your sins no more, in fact buried them, why do we feel complled to remind Him of our sin then when He doesnt remember them no more? We as believers need to walk in the truth that we are free, forgiven, sanctified. When God look at us, what do you thinks He sees? A unconfessed sinner? or Someone that Jesus died for, bought, redeemed? The bible says that God imputed His own righteousness in us, because our own righteousness(our best efforts) are as filthy rags. So praise God when you make a mistake, for he already forgave you, gave His righteousness to you, sanctified you. So lets look at ourselves the way God already looks at us. God Bless!

    • Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”1 Timothy 2:6 How can you praise God when you sin, Jesse? The answer is to repent and ask God for forgiveness and He forgives us as promised in His Word. If this teaching on “don’t need to confess” is so clear, why is it not clearly outright stated anywhere in the Scriptures – Believers, you don’t need to confess your sins because you have been already forgiven”? Why form a theology based on an implied truth rather than the clear stated Word of God and try to get round clear Scripture by saying its not addressed to believers, or addressed to pre-believers, or even worse, claiming most of Jesus’ teaching is only applicable before the cross?

      • John Senior // January 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm //

        The term “to confess” means to agree with God. The question you need to ask is “How does God see my sins?” Jesse has answered this from scripture, so why do you still believe we need to confess our sins, the ones that God Himself has said He remembers no more?

        According to the apostle Paul we are dead to Sin. I think there is a great deal of confusion about who and what we are as believers. We are righteous, holy, sanctified and made perfect in Jesus – here and now. As the apostle John says “As He [Jesus] is, so are we in this world.” If you focus on your sins, you have, according to the writer of Hebrews, an evil conscience. More importantly, if you think your efforts (i.e. consfession”) makes you more righteous, then Jesus did an incomplete work on the Cross, and then you may have something to boast about.

      • In 1 John 1:7, John talks about walking in the light, and the blood of Jesus purifying us from sin as we walk in the light. When we walk in the light, the light exposes our sins, and where particular sins are exposed, we need to agree with God that those are sins, and seek to stop doing them. As we agree, we are forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness. It is not about confessing sins already forgiven, but sins exposed as we walk in the light. If one were to walk in the light and have sin exposed but refused to agree that it is sin, or claim he is already forgiven and still persist in that sin, is he forgiven? Scripture warns that those who persist in lying, sexual immorality, other sins will not inherit the kingdom of God.

        We are dead to sin. That is a fact, but many of us still continue to live in sin, because we do not reckon ourselves dead to sin. Do not be deceived. You cannot persist in sin and claim to be forgiven. We are righteous, holy, sanctified, here and now as we remain in Jesus, as we remain open to obey Him and walk according to the Holy Spirit. You won’t focus on your sins anymore once confessed and forgiven. Why keep an evil conscience, if you interpret it that way?

        Why is confessing sins considered an effort or work to earn salvation? Is taking the effort
        to say the sinners prayer also working for salvation? We are saved by grace, through faith, but the evidence of a true faith is works – personal holiness and good deeds as led by the Holy Spirit and obedience to Jesus Christ and His sayings – including forgiving others to be forgiven (relevant for us today and not only before the cross!).

  28. John Senior // January 3, 2013 at 9:22 am // Reply

    Jason, I have a question for you. What tells you you have sinned, so that you need to confess it?

    Is there a Law that you are attempting to keep? Sin gets it power from the Law, so when you say you have sinned by breaking a Law, you are under that Law, and you give Sin power over you. Why would you want to do that?. James clearly says that if you want to keep just one one commandment, you are obligated to keep all of them (all 613). If there is no Law, then Sin is not imputed or counted (Romans 7). Why do you want to be under any Law? As Paul says, ALL things are lawful, just somethings are not helpful – there are NO laws in true Christianity – unless you count Jesus’ commands to 1) believe on Him and 2) love one another (your fellow brethren) as Christ loved us – impossible if you don’t understand just how much God loves you first.

    Paul says that the 10 commandments is a ministry of Death and Condemnation (1 Cor 3). We have been set free from this Law of Sin and Death and are now subject to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). We are dead to the Law, it has been nailed to the Cross. Why would you want to take it back?

    Paul clearly teaches that to be saved – receive the new life of the Spirit, ALL we need to do is believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10). There is no mention of confession of sins in order to do this.

    John’s statement that “and if in the light we may walk, as He is in the light–we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son [continually] cleanses us from every sin” is clear. “Walking in the light” is what we do when we believe in the Lord Jesus (Col 1:12) – it is our natural sate and inheritance as believers.

    Let me ask you another question. Once you got saved (born again) you started to walk in the Light. As we walk in the Light (which is what we do after we are saved – we never return to the Dark side), it is the Blood of Jesus that continuously cleanses us. We do not have to do anything!! You have already confessed (agreed with God) you are a sinner when you first got saved – that’s why you believed on the :Lord Jesus – you don’t need to keep doing this, because once you were saved, you became a new creation – in Paul’s language you became a saint. You cannot become a sinner again – although you might do something that you classify as a sin, in which case you just need to confess that Jesus has already taken away your sin, and has already washed you in His Blood.

    • Nobody is trying to go back to the law of Moses, but we are to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law which is to love God and to love our neighbor. This is expressed not so much in outward ceremonies and regulations as in the old law, but love starting out from the deepest parts of ourselves – our thoughts, our feelings, our words. We do not pursue to follow the Sermon of the Mount as a means of salvation, like the Jews did the law of Moses. But we depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us, and help us follow what Jesus taught.
      I am not advocating that confessing each and every one of your sins is a necessary condition to keep your salvation. This is a wrong gospel where Christians become worried “Oh what if I left out one confession?” Rather to me, as you walk in the light, or “you walk with Jesus” because Jesus is the light, you will become aware of certain sinful things that need to be changed. Peter, when seeing the holiness of Jesus, said “Go away from me, a sinful man”. Then you must agree with Jesus that you must change those things. Are you advocating that a Christian can walk in the light and continue in deliberate and purposeful sinfulness and still be saved? So I purposely sin, then I tell myself, it’s already forgiven, and I am still walking in the light, I’m still saved by the cross?

  29. jason, maybe looking at the verse from Jesus’ perspective would help? by Jesus own definition, HE is The Light! (john 8:12, 9:5 & 12:46) in 1 john 1:7, it is very likely that john is making an exact reference to Jesus’ very words in john 12:46… “the light” is not a thing – but a place – a person! by saying that “the light exposes our sins,” then you are in essence saying: Jesus exposes our sins… and you are saying the exact opposite of what Jesus did… which was “to take away the sins of the world” (heb 9:28, 1 john 3:5)

    • Hi Jennie, fully agree with you that Jesus is the Light. John said God is light. As we walk with Jesus, by the light of His holiness, we become aware of certain parts of our life that may be sinful, and when we change those things. We are forgiven, we continue to walk in the light. What if you refuse to change? Can you purposely continue to sin and still walk with Jesus and keep your salvation? Are your sins still taken away?

      • John Senior // January 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm //

        Jason, shocking as this may seem, in answer to your question “Can you purposely continue to sin and still walk with Jesus and keep your salvation? Are your sins still taken away?” The answer is YES!!!. At the Cross, everything changed. Jesus has ALREADY taken away not just all your sins and all my sins and all Jennie’s, but that of the WHOLE world (See 1 John 2:2). The only “sin” that has not been taken away is the sin of not believing in Jesus (see John 16:8.) It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people in the world (aka unbelievers) of this sin, not ours. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us (aka believers) of our righteousness, NOT our sins!!!

        God has already forgiven everyone of their sins – but they need to believe in the work that Jesus finished at the Cross to appropriate it. [I am NOT advocating that everyone is saved, just forgiven – which is not the same thing.)

        As far as having to keep some form of the Law (be it the Moral Law, the summary of the Law as Jesus declared it, or as you put it “we are to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law which is to love God and to love our neighbor”), you are mistaken. When Jesus summarized the Law, He was speaking, firstly, to Jews, and secondly to the religious rulers (Pharisees and Sadducees) of His day. The Law was given through Moses to the Jews – not the Gentiles. The Law has NEVER applied to Gentiles, it’s only man-made religion that has tacked it onto Christianity. The Apostle Paul very clearly states in 2 Corinthians 3 that the core of the Law, the 10 commandments (which Jesus was summarizing in the Gospels for His Jewish listeners) are the ministry of Death and Condemnation. The Law gives Sin its power. If you insist on keeping to the Law, then you must keep ALL of it (see James 3). The Law brings death, not Life. Only Jesus brings Life.

        ALL of Paul’s teachings in the New Covenant expressly deal with this subject. Paul is the resurrected Jesus’ mouthpiece to us – in his epistles he is outlining the Life of the Spirit, which can have NOTHING to do with the Law. In Romans 7-8, Paul clearly describes the difference between following the Law (which he calls the Law of Sin and Death) with the Life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus. You cannot live by both at the same time. In fact Paul says that to go back to the Law is spiritual adultery. He even clearly teaches that you only know Sin because of the Law!

        When you were born again, you became a new creation – a new species of being, if you will. The old (meaning (1) all of the Law – see Hebrews 7, and (2) the old sinful nature of Adam that we are all born with, and (3) the old religious way of self effort, self improvement, self righteousness, etc) has been completely done away with – by Jesus at the cross.

        If you focus on how you will deal with your sins then you are following the path of self righteousness, not the path of faith in the Lord Jesus. Jesus has already dealt with ALL your sins – so let them remain buried, and instead rejoice in Him, and His finished work of redemption. Let Jesus truly become to you YOUR wisdom , righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30).

      • jason, the light of Christ’s holiness is within you… He is holy and so are you! I’m sure you would agree with me that Jesus doesn’t have a dirty speck of sin, unholiness or unrighteousness in Him right this very moment – sitting at the right hand of our Father… so if you and i are seated with Him (eph 2:6) and IN Him, then wouldn’t we have to be just as holy and clean and righteous as He is? (1john 4:17)
        they way we live has a lot to do with what we believe… if you believe you are a sinner saved by grace, then you are going to live like a sinner – saved by grace… but if you believe that you have been forgiven and made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, the way you live will reflect that… that’s what james was talking about when he said i will show you my faith by my works…
        i like pictures, so here’s a mental image for you: the ark represents Christ… noah and his family represent believers in Christ… they are sealed up inside that ark (that represents the seal of the Holy Spirit). they are safe and they are saved from the flood. i’m sure they probably lost their footing and stumbled a few times in the storm (until they got their sea-legs)… but they all made it through to the end 😉

      • Fully agree with your comments about the Lord, and its true the ark is a type symbolizing our salvation. If we remain in Jesus, yes, we are everything you said. However, we still have free choice, and there are believers who because of the love of the world or other reasons, choose not to remain in Jesus, such as Judas and Demas. They have left the ark of salvation so to speak. Jesus basically said “remain in Me, and I will remain in you”. How do you remain in Jesus? Seek to obey His teachings, including the sermon of the Mount and the teachings of the apostles! If we listen to Jesus’ teachings and put them into practice, we are like a wise man who built his house on the rock. If we think we are saved, and ignore our Lord’s teachings on righteous living out of the misconception that it only applies to Jews/unbelievers, that would be very dangerous indeed.

      • Jason, I’m going to end this thread of discussion because you’re preaching works and I don’t encourage idolatry. Since you are using the language of danger, I am going to be equally blunt. By promoting carnal activity, you are denying the finished work of the cross and insulting the spirit of grace. As Watchman Nee once said, “We can try or we can trust and the difference is heaven or hell.” If you are trying, you’re not trusting. Effort and grace don’t mix (Rom 11:6). I encourage you to quit trying and start trusting.

        I know you believe in grace for salvation, but by your actions you seem to state that what Jesus started he cannot finish. “It’s now up to me.” If you think your ongoing acceptance is based on your ability to perform for Jesus, you have truly missed the path. It’s grace from start to finish.

  30. Reading your post and a few of the comments here, “1 John 1:9” and “do I have to confess my sins to be forgiven” posts. I have some questions in looking to understand what the Bible tells us regarding “confess your sins” and that this verse is written to unbelievers.
    If this is written to unbelievers I still have questions:

    ~ to be/have/live in fellowship with God, one only has to confess (say the same thing) their sins? It doesn’t seem John is giving the full gospel for them to hear and be saved, if he is speaking to unbelievers and telling them how to be in a right relationship with God.

    ~ Do the unbelievers have to confess all their sins (plural) as it is written in this verse? What if they can’t remember them all, will they not be in fellowship with God?

    ~ My understanding is that “confess” in this verse is present tense. Keep on, continuous action. So, even if it is for unbelievers the present tense of confess here intends for the unbelievers who can have fellowship with God by confessing their sins – to keep on confessing?

    ~ I also think cleanse is present tense.
    If we (unbelievers) confess (say the same thing about our sins as God says, continuous action) He is faithful and righteous to forgive us (unbelievers) and to cleanse (make clean, continuous action) us ( unbelievers) from all unrighteousness.

    So, if confess and cleanse are present tense, then this verse is stating that an unbeliever can be forgiven and keep being cleansed by simply continuing to confess their sins, THEN they will have fellowship with God?

    Thanks for indulging me. I am trying to understand. 🙂

    • Allie, the difficulty may be with the English word “confess.” John doesn’t use this word but homologeo, which means “say the same thing as” or “agree with.” A believer is someone who agrees with God. We don’t agree with him once and then stop agreeing. I am continually agreeing with God. It’s faith from first to last.

      John is here speaking of people walking in the darkness. They are claiming to be sinless but they are deceiving themselves. The remedy for them is to stop disagreeing and start agreeing with God. It’s his way of saying repent and believe. John wasn’t sin-conscious but Son-conscious. He’s promoting the work of God rather than the work of the flesh. We need to read his words through the lens of the Son rather than the lens of sin.

      The fellowship John speaks of is koinonia, it’s the fellowship of a branch with a vine. Those apart from Christ are not in union with him; those who have been joined to him by the Holy Spirit can never be out of union.

      • I don’t think the difficulty is with the “english” word. The first point in my comment, I mentioned “say the same thing”…I’m looking at it from the tense, mood and voice in the greek AND the fact that you are putting it out there that this verse or passage is for unbelievers. If unbelievers confess (agree with God) their sins to be forgiven, that seems to be relying on confession as a means for forgiveness, that is not grace.

        You are aware that “confess” (say the same thing, agree with) is present tense. Continuous action, there is no way this can mean anything different. It is present tense. I would go on to say it is even stronger in the greek, continuous action.
        It is first person, plural, present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. “Cleanses” is also present tense.
        So I read it as this: If (conditional, may or may not) we confess (keep saying the same thing God says) about our sins (keep on agreeing)…he is faithful and just to forgive us cleanse (keep on cleansing) us from all unrighteousness. After researching this I’m concluding this is a familial forgiveness, not regarding salvation. When I confess (say the same thing) about my selfish anger or wrong attitude or “white lie” or breaking the law by speeding, calling it a sin, I find that I am more Son – conscious. This verse is not calling for feelings of guilt or keeping my mind on sin. It is simply saying the same thing about what I am doing/choosing IS a sin – the same thing as God says about it.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if this was written to unbelievers, as you teach, then according to the tense, they are to keep on agreeing with God about their (particular) sins as a habit of life.

        My questions remains: If this passage is for the unbeliever, do they then become a believer by confessing their sins to be forgiven and therefore cleansed from all unrighteouness? is this what happens in this passage? The tense of the verbs conclude this is not what it is saying.

      • As I say, a believer is someone who agrees with God so by definition, someone who confesses (in the Biblical sense of agreeing with God) is a believer. I think your interpretation of what happens is spot on. Joseph Prince describes it as being under the waterfall of grace. Jesus cleanses and goes on cleansing us. The only “requirement” for receiving grace is you have to want it – you have to believe in it and agree with God that Jesus has done it all. Confession/agreeing with God, is simply another way of saying “faith.” It’s John’s equivalent of “repent (turn to God) and believe the good news.”

        My only problem is that some have used this passage to prescribe confession (in the sense of dead works) as a formula for forgiveness, as in, God won’t forgive you until you confess. Not only is that contrary to what John is saying here, it’s contrary to Jesus’ words and every other scripture on forgiveness in the new covenant.

  31. Pau, what a breath of fresh air to read your understanding of 1st John 1:9. 99% of the people that my wife and I talk to do not understand God’s forgiveness. Most will say,that is what I have always heard or been taught,never that is what the Holy Spirit taught me. We believe that works is a very large issue for some folks and they just believe they have to be doing something to stay right with God.. We heard Major W. Ian Thomas speak in a bible study at Cooper Aerobic Clinic about 25 years ago in Dallas and the light buld came on that night and it has never dimmed. Heb 9:22, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Don’t keep asking for what we already have. Thank you for your understanding..

  32. Yes I came to the exact same conclusions and I was dumbfounded! You will notice in chapter 2 John states that if we do sin as dear children we have one who stands before the Father in our defense! There is no mention of confession of sins.

  33. Yes, 1John 1:8 refers to unbelievers, as the context of 1John 1 reveals. To say otherwise contradicts 1John3:9 which says Christians cannot sin.

    Only past Sin was dealt with at the cross, Rom 3:25. After we receive Christ there is no more sin that can be charged against us. Who shall lay ANYTHING (which includes sin) to the charge of God’s elect? Rom 8:33.

    We cannot be charged with sin of transgressing the law (1John3:4) as we’re not under the law, Rom 8:2, Rom 10:4, Gal 3:25, Gal 5:18, 1Tim1:9. And where there is no law there is no transgression/Sin, Rom4:15.

    We cannot be charged with sin of unrighteousness (1John 5:17) as our faith is counted for righteousness, Rom 4:5.

    1Pet 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh (crucified), arm yourselves likewise with the same mind(our old man crucified, Rom 6:6) for he that hath suffered in the flesh (Rom 6:6) hath CEASED from sin

    In the physical Christians are not perfect, but in Christ we’re complete (Col 2:10), holy (Rom 11:16), perfected (Heb 10:14) and righteous. Christians abide in Christ and in him there is no son, 1John 3:5,6. It’s Christ in us that God sees. The imperfect physical part of us is already dead (by faith) because of sin, Rom 8:10. Hence we cannot be charged with sin for our physical failings.

  34. J. Steven Holcomb // January 4, 2014 at 4:25 am // Reply

    I John 1 was written to Gnostics who do not believe that flesh can be divine or Holy. That’s why John lays the groundwork to establish Jesus’ divine humanity in the first couple of verses. Later on, John will reemphasize the point by stating that the spirit of antichrist will deny Jesus coming in the flesh (doctrine of gnosticism.)

  35. Jason had it right…if you scroll up and review his posts. I have come to find out this truth personally in my walk with the lord. I walked in wilful sin and in the repent-sin..repent-sin cycle for many years. It wasn’t until the Lord in his mercy chastised me sore that I realized what I had been doing all those years. If we walk in the LIGHT as he (God) is in the LIGHT…his (sons) blood cleanses us from all sin.

    It’s a continual cleansing that only applies to those who are NOT walking in darkness (works of the flesh). When we walk in the light…our sin is immediately dealt with and made know to us. It’s made known to us and then dealt with by the blood. When walking in darkness the sin isn’t exposed and dealt with.

    Walk in the light people. Don’t justify sin. God is merciful to forgive, there is an advocate (Jesus Christ) but that doesn’t negate us from keeping ourselves in the love of God which in Him is no darkness at all.

  36. To me, 1 John 1 seems like it’s talking to all people, not just Christians or unbelievers. But it’s unimportant. I believe that in context, John is trying to make a point regarding an apparent belief that some people did not ever sin…

    Last think about willfully sinning… I believe that when we keep our eyes on Jesus and what He has done for us freely by His grace, HIS WORK MOVES AND CHANGES OUR HEARTS… and you won’t be willfully sinning much longer. He DOES work.. and His work WORKS! 🙂 Even if it seems like it’s taking awhile to kick the habit.


  37. Guilt is the consequence of sin, it applies to believers (under grace) and unbelievers (under wrath). As a believer, I still believe that I need to confess my sins, for God to cleanse me of all the consequence of my sins. I choose to be humble before God and not arrogant by declaring humbly that I still sin and needs cleansing. I compare myself to a cancer survivor, although I am totally remissed of the deathly diseased, I am still susceptible to some regular sickness that needs medication and cleansing, for me to live life more abundantly and meaningfully.

  38. Yep, I agree…..If 1 John 1:9 means we only are forgiven if we confess, then many of us would go to hell……that would make little sense in relation to the rest of Scripture…..I do confess or at least talk to the Trinity when I sin many times..but not every single sin..otherwise, I would be a very busy guy…..however, I do not believe it is a necessity…otherwise, maybe Jesus work on the cross was only partially complete….

  39. I think 1 John 5:13 tells us to whom the book was written – To believers, so they may know they have eternal life.

    13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

  40. hey guys, I am reading all comments and everyone is so concerned with this one scripture and I would like to know why. Is it because we are sinning and then just want to run to the Father and confess our sin? The word confess here in the Greek is homologia, meaning agreeing with God our Father about the same thing. So we could say it this way. If we agree with our Father concerning sin, then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Well doesn’t that mean if He cleanses us from all unrighteousness doesn’t that mean we were unrighteous because we sinned? Christs blood is the solution for all sin in our lives, glory. IF we are truly born again by the Spirit of Almighty God/Holy Spirit then we do not want to sin, and sin should be getting less and less in our lives because of the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to reveal sin, and then He who is the Helper, helps us stop sinning. Only Christ in us can stop us from sinning. This is what true grace is the ability by the Spirit to help us when we sin. God bless you.

  41. I have always had difficulty accepting First John 1:9 was to believers as Jesus was sacrificed for all sins past,present and future so in and out of fellowship seems to ignore what was done once and for all for ever

  42. Olga booga // April 29, 2015 at 5:46 am // Reply

    The whole council of God is written for,the believer? Go pluck out your eye…..think about it.

  43. the thing that bothers me is that according to scripture we don’t ‘confess’ to be saved. We believe. I don’t recall anywhere that states we need to ‘confess sin’ to be forgiven. The issue isn’t forgiveness anyway – all people on earth were technically forgiven when jesus hung on the cross 2000 years ago. One is saved when he believes that. We are saved by grace through faith…. not through forgiveness. So then why, if this verse is directed to unbelievers, does it tell them to ‘confess’ to be forgiven?

    • Because if you don’t believe you are forgiven (ie: you don’t agree with God), you won’t experience the gift that’s been given. You’ll reach for the fig leaves of self-effort instead of trusting in Jesus.

  44. Amazing post. Amazing memes. Wow, I’ve needed a laugh like that. You’re awesome, Paul.

  45. Hi, Paul. After reading many blog posts and hundreds of comments on your site the last few days, I realized and hit me like a brick that I’ve been on a performance treadmill all my life –63 years total and 33 as a believer. I know all the scriptures about salvation and sanctification that both sides use. And I thought I knew grace like the back of my hand. But when I took your test, I immediately realized that as a believer I’ve been sin-conscious and not God-conscious. I thought I was living by the Spirit, but I know now it has been the flesh that I’ve lived by for much of the time. The flesh is capable of doing a lot of good , but it can never compete with Christ’s righteousness which we received the moment we believed. Thanks for showing me that. I look forward to reading your blogs regularly now. Cool blog about your daughter’s Australian citizenship and its corollary to our standing with God

    • Thanks for sharing, Don. Many of us can relate.

      • donbeeson // October 27, 2015 at 4:17 am //

        Thanks, Paul. I live in Tucson, AZ USA btw. Jesus Said in John 3 that what’s born of the flesh is flesh and what’s born of the Spirit is spirit. And Paul says the old man died. I read the link you posted about sin being a person and still being able to wage war against our mind and influence it. And there is the scripture about our being transformed by the renewing of our mind–Romans 12:2 I think it’s starting to make sense. Sin is not us but it can enter our minds and influence it . We think it’s us–the sin that we commit–but it really isn’t us at all. Is that why John in 1 John says in verse 18 and other places say we can’t sin? I hope I don’t sound heretical, but I believe God uses the Bible to speak to us but also uses other means to give us understanding. As you said, it’s the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–not the Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

    • donbeeson, Since you say, ” We think it’s us–the sin that we commit–but it really isn’t us at all.” if thats the case. why does the word say, If we sin (notice the “if we sin” its we that are doing, said sin) we have an advocate with the Father? 1 John 2:1. I believe it is us who sins and it is us who have to advocte it (the ‘if’ sin) through confessing. James (Jesus brother) said similar, “confess our sins one to another,…. that you may be healed.” James 5:16. NLT.

  46. You are splitting hair on 1 John 1:9 just like the radical grace preacher Joseph Prince. Christians are being made holy but fallible in the course of time, one may stumble to sin due to weakness. Yet God has the provision in 1 John 1:9 for us to confess sin though it’s not a license to sin deliberately as if we can easily get over it. Otherwise, one may abuse it and becomes lascivious. It’s an exceptional provision for believers to overcome the devil’s accusation if we understand the whole context from 1 John 1:5 to 2:2. The most classical proof is the mega church Sr Ps Kong Hee of City Harvest Church in Singapore, who has been convicted of the criminal charge of Criminal Breach of Trust and Falsification of Accounts. He could have repented and confessed his sin according to 1 John 1:9, but unfortunately, he felt he was wronged by the justice system of the court and filed his appeal against both the verdict and sentence instead.

    • That’s right, if he had confessed, it would helped him in the courts of heaven, not sure of, in the courts of Singapore! But for sure, I know that even human judges like to hear confessions , as no one likes to be lied to, or deceived. But thankfully, It works with God, (1 John 1:9).
      Either way, the word say’s; Proverbs 28:13, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”
      Hard to believe with all the evidence and convictions, Kong Hee still does not just confess and move on.
      We cannot hide our sins from God and the only way to deal with sin is to first acknowledge our wrong doing, seek God and most of all, “go and sin no more.”
      What is critical is not the fall, but the needful acknowledgment (confession) that we have gone down the wrong path and to get up and get back into the right path where God is waiting.
      No, it does not happen, automatically, as some suggest.

      • momzilla76 // February 4, 2016 at 7:13 am //

        I’m a little unclear as to what does not happen “automatically as some suggest”.
        If you mean getting back up and back on the right path without an official prayer of confession I beg to differ. I have seen it, experienced it personally, and have observed the long lasting fruit.
        Now getting back up with no conscious knowledge of having done wrong and back up to the right path yes I totally agree! In order to be able to get back up first you must know you are down and off track. You don’t just switch gears without knowing you are doing so.

  47. If We confess our sins than he will cleanse us Isn’t that works of confessing and does an unbeliever remember his sins? seems difficult…

  48. I have struggled with this passage for many years. It simply makes no sense to confess something which Jesus paid for with his death and resurrection. I have been told that “confess” means to agree with God, so I agree with God that ALL my sins have been forgiven.
    The “if” clause makes forgiveness of sin dependent on me, not God, which is not what Ephesians, Galatians, & Colossians teach. If I could do that Jesus would not have had to die.

  49. Warren (South Carolina, USA) // March 31, 2016 at 11:20 pm // Reply

    Thank you Saint Paul for this study. Thank God for His super-abundant (hyper) grace!
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

    P.S. I find it interesting how the comments veered off at one point to thread thru Ananias & Sapphira (heart attacks my best guess).

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