1 John 1:9 – Ask the Right Question

In many grace books it is common to find some discussion on 1 John 1:9. This verse is special because it is the only verse in the new covenant that appears to link confession of sins with God’s forgiveness. If this verse was in the old covenant it would be no great thing, but because it’s in the new it stands out.

In his book Pure Grace, Clark Whitten writes:

Whenever the subjects of sin and the need of confession are raised, this verse (1 John 1:9) is universally quoted and trotted out as a proof text. Why? Because there aren’t any others to quote! (p.91)

1 John 1:9 is often used to support a mixed-grace message of conditional forgiveness, as in, “God won’t forgive you unless you review all of your sins.” Naturally this message is incompatible with the gospel of grace, the words of Jesus, and everything else the new covenant says about forgiveness.

Yet the mixed-grace preacher will insist from this one verse, that you must confess, if not to be re-forgiven, then at least to restore your relationship with the Lord. He will say things like, “If you sin against your spouse, don’t you confess?” Of course you do, but that’s hardly an argument for conditional forgiveness.

As I have said elsewhere, there’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy confession. Confessing sins is good for you, but only when it’s done with a heart of faith. Sadly, confessing-to-be-forgiven often reflects unbelief or ignorance regarding the finished work of the cross. Instead of making things better, this sort of confession promotes self-trust and frustrates grace.

Do sins need to be confessed to be cleansed?

Much of the debate over 1 John 1:9 hangs on the question of Who is John addressing? Who are the “we” who need to confess their sins? Is John describing unbelievers, as I have said elsewhere? Or is he describing all of us, because we all get dirty from time to time and need to be re-cleansed?

Maybe this is the wrong question. Perhaps we don’t need to get too worked up over who John had in mind when he wrote this verse. We can agree that we all need Jesus to cleanse us from sin and unrighteousness—every single one of us.

A better question is whether Jesus will cleanse us from all sin or only some sin (specifically the sin we confess). Does he cleanse us from all unrighteousness or only some unrighteousness? Here John is unequivocal. Jesus cleanses us from “all unrighteousness” (v.9). The blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross “purifies us from all sin” (v.7). And then, just in case we missed it, John says it a third time:

I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  (1 John 2:12)

All means all

Jesus doesn’t just deal with the sin of your past, but the sin of your present and future as well. This is great grace! This is the revelation that will empower you to go and sin no more.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. (1 John 2:1a)

Confessing sins will not help you overcome sin, but grace will! We don’t confess to expunge sin, we confess to receive grace. Big difference.

If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1b)

The mixed-grace preacher says, “When you sin, you’d better start talking,” But the apostle John says, “When you sin, Jesus does the talking!”

boasting

Why does Jesus talk? Because when you sin the Accuser will accuse you and if no one says anything you’ll end up feeling accused. But listen to the Advocate speaking on your behalf, drawing attention away from your sin and onto his sublime sacrifice, and you’ll feel righteous and clean. You will experience what is already true about you in Christ.

The mixed-grace preacher says you have a responsibility to deal with your sin. But the hyper-grace gospel declares you have a responsibility to heed the Spirit of Grace as he gently leads you in paths of righteousness. Fact is, you can’t deal with your sin, but grace can!

What is the wrong question?

When you sin there are two questions you can ask. The wrong question is, “What can I do to fix this?” That is the question Adam asked as he reached for the fig leaves. It’s a bad question that will lead to self-trust and death. A better question is, “What has Jesus done to fix this?” and John plainly tells us: He has cleansed us from all unrighteousness!

I hope you can see now that when the mixed-grace preacher says, “You have to confess to make things right,” he is answering the wrong question. And when John says, “Believe Jesus and have life in his name” (John 20:31), he is answering the right question.

The mixed-grace preacher says you have to work to make yourself righteous and clean. But John the hyper-grace preacher says you need to believe that Christ’s sacrifice cannot be improved upon and that in him you have been eternally cleansed from all unrighteousness.

The problem is you won’t believe if you listen to the Accuser (or the mixed-grace preacher). Instead, you’ll work to pay the price and do the penance and make yourself clean. Don’t do that, says John:

I write so that you may not sin, but if you do, don’t heed the Accuser; listen to the Advocate! Agree with him and make his words your words. Stop playing the blame game, making excuses, or pretending you can beat this thing. Instead of belly-aching about your imperfections, praise him for his perfections, because that’s where the grace is found – in him! You want to confess? Then confess this: “By the blood of Jesus I have been cleansed from all unrighteousness. In him I am righteous and free from the power of sin. This is not because of anything I have done, but because of everything he’s done. Thank you, Jesus!

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74 Comments on 1 John 1:9 – Ask the Right Question

  1. What do mixed grace types say when one asks what happens if we forget or miss a sin? If confession is required for forgiveness, then surely forgetting to confess a sin means I am not forgiven. Have they confessed every sin? Sounds like a religious hamster wheel if ever I heard of one.

    • Randy Blunt // June 4, 2014 at 1:51 pm // Reply

      Nick, in my experience this gets the same treatment that the law gets when you point out that it’s impossible, which is “well that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try” (to confess them all/follow the law). Sad but true.

    • Most of the evangelical world believes in the bar of soap theory, and they use. 1 John 1:9 to propagate this theory. That you have to go to Christ to continuously get cleansed, but then they will say what your position in the kingdom never changed, but that makes absolutely no sense, because one little white lie will separate me from God for all eternity accorded them. So what happens if I die in my sleep with unconfessed sins, oh they would say, well the grace of God will lead you in heaven. But they just told me that I have to confess my sins to be forgiven, if I have unforgiven sins I go to hell. It is pure lunacy, that leads men into bondage of religion.

  2. THATS what im saying!!!! There’s a difference between our relationships with our spouse and God, just like there’s a difference between the relationship between my mom and my wife. My mom will always be my mom no matter how much dumb stuff I might do but I doubt my wife would put up with as much.

  3. I am fairly new to the hyper grace message. I was constantly keeping short accounts with God because I was taught that if I didn’t confess my sins I would fall out of relationship with God. What a miserable spirit life I had. My dad is a Mennonite pastor and I found a Joseph Prince book (his first one) on his couch that he was reading. I was a bit surprised to say the least. He thought I should read it. We’ll the rest is history. Now he preaches the hyper grace message to his congregation and I have found real freedom and a thirst for God that can’t be quenched. Thank you Paul Ellis for this blog. I still go to a church that teaches mixture so this is my grace church. Thank you.

  4. 1John 1:9 is not talking about the believers’ relationship with God, for that cannot be broken by sins believers commit. Our relationship with God through faith by grace in the perfect person and sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ is Eternal. Nothing whatsoever can sever that. John is talking about our fellowship which could be affected if a believer or believers take the freedom we have in Christ for granted and began to live in sin (Rom. 6:1-4) knowing that all his sins, past, present and future has been forgiven,(Col.2:13,14) could lead to break in fellowship because sin grieves the Holy Spirit,(Eph.4:30) so he could lose the Joy of fellowship with His Loving Father. We are obliged to appropriate physically our positional stand in Christ in all we say and do by the power of the Holy Spirit Who is at work in us. In a nutshell, John is not talking about Judicial Forgiveness(Rom.8:1) but about Parental Forgiveness.That verse is appropriate for us believers in Christ today.

    • Emmanuel. What if you don’t want to be parented? I’m not being stubborn. I’m just admitting reality. What does it mean to you?

      • Emmanuel // June 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm //

        Then God is not your Father ( Heb. 12: 8). It’s also means that you’re not yet saved. God is a Father to all true believers.

    • I understand, I was simply stating the way I was taught and brought up. I was taught that i could lose my salvation if I didn’t confess my all my sins. I also do not think that I can break fellowship with God due to sin. Satan would love for you to think that, therefore causing you to fall into guilt and condemnation and sin consious instead of Christ consious. Anything to get your focus off of Christ and on you. When I sin, I confess my righteousness in Christ. God is not in a swivel chair, when I sin he doesn’t turn his back on me untill I confess than he swings back around. If I go down that road of losing my fellowship with Christ when ever I sin, I would always feel like I couldn’t have fellowship with God. If I sin, than confess my sin, I am saying that I am now sinless from that point on untill I sin again. If I say I have no sin than I am a liar and the truth is not in us. 1John 1:9 says Christ cleanses me from ALL unrighteousness which connotates a one time cleansing. The first part of 1John 1, John is writing to the Gnostics unbelievers in the church who say they have no sin. Thus 1John 1:9 is sandwiched in between the two verses (8 and 10) that brings that out. If we acknowledge that we have sinned (verse 9) then he will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I acknowledged, confessed and agreed with God about my sin one time, that was when I accepted Jesus as Lord. I am cleansed from ALL unrighteousness.

      • Emmanuel // June 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm //

        I think you need to ask God for a better understanding between a relationship and a fellowship. If that verse is useful to only Gnostics, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have it written down for us. I didn’t mean to say that whenever a believer sins, his fellowship with his father is broken, No, of course not. What do you do when you grief your father? (Eph. 4:30). A humble child of God doesn’t find it difficult to say he’s sorry. He sympathises with our weaknesses,(Heb. 4:15)…Grace does not forbid confession of a believer, and confession does not mean that a believer is doubting his total forgiveness…A believer is not sinless.

      • Emmanuel, I don’t think confession is wrong for a believer. I thank God daily for his grace, love and forgiveness in my life. And yes I sin and talk to God about my sins, struggles and anxiety. He is my friend. And then He says “you are the righteousness of God because of Christ. Thats my confession.

  5. This is a great passage and says to me only one thing. The only sin is hiding from God.

  6. And why is it the only sin.Because it will kill you, or keep you dead.

  7. When we preach law we kill.

  8. Thanks Paul, clear and simple.

  9. The difference between resolving an offence with God or man is that we deal with man on a case by case basis. If we offend our fellow man, we are obligated to apologise and ask for their forgiveness, in order to restore the relationship.
    But it’s different with God. He dealt with all our sin, past, present and future, ONCE and ONCE only at the cross.
    Heb 10:11-14 Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered ‘one’ sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by ‘one’ offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
    Not only that, He has already (past tense) forgiven all our sin and simply asks that we recieve that forgiveness.
    Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may ‘receive forgiveness of sins’ and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. ’

  10. Tanks so much sir for dis eyes opening truth.ur blessed head is bless d more in Jesus name.love u.

  11. I was raised a catholic,and when I had to go to confession,once a week,I used to have to make up sins,because I wasnt sure if I could remember all my sins “such a deal”,im sure glad thats over with.

    • Amen to that! I remember those childhood days of confession, penance and communion, over and over ad infinitum! Thank God I found the TRUTH of God’s Word that set me free…pure GRACE of GOD!!

  12. Reading v8 & v10 the thought that comes to mind is that John is saying we should acknowledge that we are sinners (confess that we have sin in our lives) because Jesus is faithful to forgive us. It is sort of obvious – if you don’t acknowledge that you have sinned (and still sometimes do) then how can Jesus cleanse you. It not that he is saying we should confess our sins because the confession is doing the cleansing. It is more like he is saying let us agree that we are sinners and not imply that we are perfect (in ourselves) because Jesus is standing waiting ready to forgive us! Hope this makes sense.

    • I agree with you, Muller. In 1Jn.1:7…His blood cleanses or Purifies us(believers) from ALL/EVERY SIN. This is present simple tense. Does it mean that a believer’s is not fully cleansed at the cross? In Hebrews 10: 10-“we have been sanctified once for all” verse 14-says ” He has perfected FOREVER those who are being sanctified” . In1 peter 1:15-He says; as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”. But we have been perfected or made holy forever on the cross. What I have come to discover is that, a lot of people don’t know the difference between our positional stand in Christ and our physical state. In our physical state, we’re to live-out who we have been made to be in Christ.

  13. Charlene Elder // June 4, 2014 at 5:49 am // Reply

    Great word and clarification. Thanks.

  14. Joseph Prince brought up the fact recently (which I checked out) that I John 2:12 which says “your sins have been forgiven” is in the perfect tense ie. it’s done once and for all.

  15. I still think it’s healthy to confess your sins though. Maybe more for you than for God, but I think telling Him what you’ve done wrong helps bring you closer to Him. Because in that action you say, “Lord, I have sinned, and yet you still love me and forgive me. You must truly love me.” And there is certainly nothing wrong with that conversation! So you MUST do nothing, but it is still GOOD to confess, I think.

  16. Ahhhhh. . . thank you Paul Ellis, for this blog and for this particular article. BIG sigh of relief and big shouts of praise to Jesus our SAVIOR! The Gospel is way better than any of us could possibly imagine!! Hallelujah!

  17. Gene Jones // June 5, 2014 at 6:04 am // Reply

    Good article. I John 2:12 clearly says that our sins have been (greek perfect tense) forgiven. Have been, are, and always will be. So we know that’s true. I’m not comfortable saying 1:9 is for unbelievers. But, I think this article clears things up about 1:9. It’s a matter of asking the right questions and receiving grace to overcome, not the forgiveness we already have.

  18. kennetheden // June 5, 2014 at 6:23 am // Reply

    Great post Paul! Just one observation; Isn’t The ‘Lords Prayer’ preaching “mix”….’forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’? That’s New Testament…I’m a bit confused!

    • It’s New Testament, but it’s not new covenant. This picture will help.

      • Man of God let me appreciate that Im gradually walking away from the darkness as for a second year running have been preaching repentance and nothing about GRACE!!For sure those who may not get the facts,through reading inbetween the lines,they can easily misunderstand your motives.Be blessed man of God.Pastor Joshua.

  19. Mdm.Nalinimatilda // June 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm // Reply

    Talking about forgiveness, when we read Matthew18:23 onwards, Jesus told us a parable of two servants. What did our Lord say that what would be done to the servant whom his master forgave all his debts with mercy but he failed to show the mercy to his fellow servant..It is not old covenant but in the Kingdom of heaven.

    • The parable of the unforgiving servant is discussed in this post.

      • Nalini Matilda // June 9, 2014 at 3:25 am //

        Hi Bro. Paul, I read the post of unforgiving servant. This is an excellent article and I agree with you word for word. But my point is, when a forgiven Christian refuse to forgive another fellowman will be punished. This is what is taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in this parable.Those who are merciful will receive mercy and so on. This is also taught by our Lord. I am not saying that I am a perfect Christian but striving to be one not to earn salvation but because I am already saved. I don’t want to be like the pig which was washed but went back to the mud. I know pretty sure of that I can do nothing apart from our Lord. I want to abide in HIM as a branch that He will enable me to produce fruits. End of the day all
        glory belongs to our Lord God through Christ Jesus. .

  20. Greek word used here for confess is homologia: Homo (matching/identical/same together) and légō (speak to a conclusion, lay to rest) ) is the verb version of a something special, so we’re to ‘same-speak” our sins as…what exactly? Actually not what but Who as the root is Logos, as in, “in the beginning was the Word (Logos)…and the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” (John 1) So we are being told to same-speak what Jesus says about our sins such as, “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you,” or ” what God has cleansed no longer consider unclean” or my fave: 2 Cor 5:19 or Psalm 103:1-5. Quite a lovely experience, ‘confessing’ of sins then becomes!

  21. Paul, I’d like to point out one detail about John 1:8-10 that I never hear anyone make:

    “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”

    If this verse is speaking about Christians rather than the unsaved, then it makes absolutely no sense. It says that “if we claim that we have not sinned”. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met a born-again Christian yet who claims to be without sin (verse 8) and also claims that he has not sinned (verse 10). That would also include claiming that he has never sinned. And if that was the case, how could anyone get saved if they believed that they are currently sinless and have always been sinless? What would Christ be saving them from?

    Thoughts?

  22. Hi Paul, I hear what you are saying and agree with it. Why on earth can I not get it? I have no problem believing it for others but alas not for myself. I expend it to others even though I don’t get it. I feel a fraud. I suffer from severe anxiety which I feel is spiritual. It’s worse when I come before God. I gambled and drink alcohol to dumb it. God graciously led me out of gambling but I still drink. I don’t get drunk but I feel that because I drink I’m a drunkard and will not inherit the kingdom of God. I hate it and feel I need to confess it in the hope God will forgive me. Sometimes I don’t confess it because I know I will fail. Any help?

    • Hi Bill, thanks for being honest. First of all, let me assure you that just as you are not qualified by your good behavior, you are not disqualified by your bad. You are qualified by God himself (Col 1:12)! Believe it. Rest in it. Although you might drink your way into hospital, you cannot drink your way out of the kingdom!

      Second, as long as you’re confessing, I encourage you to confess what God says about you, rather than what your behavior says about you. It takes no faith to confess, “I’m a drunkard and a sinner because of what I do.” It takes faith to confess, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus because of what he has done.”

      You are in a battle right now, but it’s a battle you can win! Not through grit and resolve, but through his supernatural power and grace. Anxiety is a a powerful enemy, but God is more powerful still and he promises to give you his grace or aid in your hour of need. I don’t want to leave you with some pithy comments – these are big issues. So I encourage you to check out The Power of Right Believing. In it Joseph Prince presents a number of hands-on strategies you can adopt that will help you walk in the freedom Christ has already won on your behalf. We’re all praying for you!

    • hi bill,I agree with Paul,God is not schizophrenic,if he says it you can believe it,he will not go back on his word, right believing does lead to right living, the enemy is so good at what he does, that you just have to believe who God says you are, there is a person in my life that has a constant battle with negative thoughts,etc, it seems to go back a long way,they are beginning to see the lies and liars for what they are,and they are getting tired of being pushed around,so hang in brother,you will have victory.

  23. I loved this post and I agree with it. I follow Joseph Prince’s message of Grace but my parents tell me I am being led astray. They follow a big Evangelist here in the US that teaches you are forgiven for all of your sins from BEFORE you were saved. But after being saved you need to confess to be forgiven. I asked them about the sins you don’t even know you have committed and they say, “You’ll know which ones you need to confess.” This sounds very confusing to me. Then I watched a tv program that had their pastor on it and he was explaining that when a believer sins they need to confess to be forgiven…not that unconfessed sin changes their ‘Position’ or their ‘Standing’ with God but that unconfessed sin was very bad for them. My problem is, I love and respect my parents but I don’t agree with them. They express concern for me and tell me if I don’t believe 1 Jn 1:9 is for the believer then I should read Ps. 32 or 51 or all the confessing David did and that should be our example. For the last 3 days I have had so much inner turmoil. While growing up, children have a sense that their parents are always right and even as adults (I’m 45) that feeling is hard to shake even to the point I begin to doubt my own belief and begin to think I am wrong and my parents are right. Since I have no church around me that preaches the Gospel of Grace I have no Christian fellowship to share with and ask for prayer so I am coming here to ask for a simple prayer to be said my way. Thanks you, God bless!!

    • Hi Kari,
      One of the hardest things I’ve seen in this grace revolution is when one person in a family “gets” it and another doesn’t. I have seen families torn apart over this issue, not because grace is destructive, but because when you turn the lights on the hidden thoughts of a person’s heart are revealed. If people value you because you think like them, that’s not true love. Jesus loved us while we were sinners. My prayer is that your parents will get so zapped by the love of God that any theological differences they have with you will seem like nothing at all.

  24. I do believe that all our sins are forgiven but I still struggle to understand some scriptures that cause me confusion. For example; if all our sins have been taken care of at the Cross and and no longer remembered then why in 1John1:7 do we need Jesus’ blood to continually cleanse us?

    Honestly not trying to be difficult, really just want to understand.🙂

  25. Earl, thanks for your encouragement. Thank you also for calling me a brother.. I do genuinely believe Jesus is whom he said he is and that he died for me and he he rose again and is seated at the right hand of our Father. That may seem contradictory to my first post. Most mornings I wake up having lost the battle before I started. When I gambled I would wake up the same, then one morning I woke up and there was not a battle. That happened 2 years ago. I had the same emotions with gambling but they just went. Did not have any urge to escape to gambling at all.

    Kari, maybe it means to free us from sin as in cleaning us up, or to free us from the guilt of sin or to pronounce us clean as a result of walking in the light.

    Paul if I have detracted from your purpose in your teaching here please let me know.
    God bless you all.

    • Hi Bill, Thank you for your thoughts on the subject.

      I read your earlier post and just wanted to say I had a similar situation as you (drinking, fear anxiety) and I did read ‘The Power of Right Believing’ and it truly opened my eyes and helped me understand who I was in Christ. If you have the chance to read it give it a try. God Bless!!

    • you are welcome Bill,”who loves ya baby” sorry I had a “Kojak” moment. a little something I think the Lord wants you to know,the more you realize WHO you are in Christ,the more things will begin loose there hold,I have a friend and brother who has a healing and deliverance ministry, he says he has many people who come back to him for deliverance again and again.and he tells them how important it is to know who you are in Christ.its not a job or something you have to work for,it is Sonship, It has taken me a while, and is a ongoing process, But for me,it was the ongoing revelation of how loved and accepted I am.

      • Cheers Earl. I haven’t seen Kojak for years. Your right my identity is the issue. I started to have deliverance nearly 20 years ago. Unfortunately it seemed to do me more damage than good. The people doing it fell poorly just as I was being opened up and were unable to continue. I was left with very raw emotionally opened wounds. As a result I shut down. I have only started going back to church the last couple of years. God has been working a lot believe it or not. I know my issue is grace as well that is how stumbled across this site when googling Gods a Grace. Sadly if one thing is resolved for some reason I then find something in me that I think God is not pleased with. Anyway thanks for encouragement and taking time to post. God bless you my friend.

      • Bill, in the beginning I to went through deliverance ,it was like a rite of passage,some strange things happen, mostly I didnt know what was going on ,They said you need to go through some deliverance,and I said, , “I got demons yuck” then I said cool lets do it, seriously there were some things that did happen, later in life,I always had the impression that it loosened some things up,and the deliverance was on going

  26. Nalini Matilda // June 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm // Reply

    Hi people, Why it is difficult to believe in confessing and repenting of our sins before our Lord who has taught it very clearly in His scriptures. Even though Father’s love for His son never waves, yet only when the rebellious son realized his sins and rose and came to his father and confessed his unworthy condition the Father accepted the son by putting on the best robe and the ring.Luke15:11-24. John13 When Peter asked Jesus” Lord,are you going to wash my feet? Jesus answered and said to him What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this .Verse10 He said He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet,but he is completely clean.
    People who have bathed and are clean all over need to wash just their feet. (verse 10)
    When a person is baptized and receives God’s holy spirit they become spiritually clean before him and come under his grace and mercy. Jesus Christ’s blood covers them entirely and washes completely away all their sins. The pulls and temptations of human nature, however, still exist after baptism. As a person lives their life they will, of course, still sin. The disciples were certainly not sinless preceding the Passover – in fact, shortly after the service they all RAN from Jesus when he was arrested and Peter DENIED him three times! When a true Christian does sin God does NOT treat them as if they were never baptized or received his spirit. They are still his spiritual children. God as a loving parent sees their sin, in a sense, as a setback and a flaw they need to repent of and overcome. In his eye’s his children have only gotten their “feet’ dirty, and not their whole bodies.

    Jesus’ simple act of and you are clean.What it means is this .

  27. Brian Midmore // June 20, 2014 at 8:06 pm // Reply

    If we say that the Holy Spirit does not reveal sins to the believer then logically it must be the believer or Satan who is revealing the sins. From this place confession becomes very legalistic: an attempt to regain our relationship with God who is cut off from us. Therefore we need some idea that all sins are automatically forgiven in order to secure in God. But we were already secure in God but not because all sins future past and present are forgiven. No its because we have the Holy Spirit that we are secure in God’s eternal covenant. The same Spirit that from time to time reveals our sins to us and grants us repentance from them.

  28. Get a life, why all the sin focus, Jesus see,s no sin he just says go and sin no more, he knows all your do but your do dos are not his problem they are yours , he is the solution.All sin for all people for all time is forgiven.But how do you give dead people life, you give them a choice, after the correct choice, the power to continue in faith choosing, health. Prosperity, favor, joy, fellowship, and yes poverty, sickness, lack, doom , gloom and all the rest.

  29. Paul, what you are advocating is actually the best self-improvement course program available. Period. “Count yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.” The usefulness of this is it reveals how perfect we already are in our new birth (and our new birth was the easiest thing in the world which the Lord accomplishes through great grace and simple faith, something He is very good at sharing with us.) If you want to improve yourself, if you want a work out, the best thing to do is to consider how perfect your already are, and then to consider all that Christ did to accomplish that. Do this. And then do it again. And again. And again. There’s your workout. There’s the only self-improvement program that works, because that’s the only self-improvement program that works for you. ~ Ralph Harris, author of God’s Astounding Opinion of You

  30. What is sin? What does Jesus say sin is?

  31. First, If I have to confess a sin to be forgiven of that sin what happens when I forget to confess? There is only one choice – that sin is not forgiven. I’m not sure what happens to that unconfessed sin, but one this is for sure, I still own it and will never get rid of it, because I can’t confess something I don’t remember.

    Secondly, we are clearly taught that Christ is all our righteousness, that we have no righteousness of our own and that God is the one who has boldly declared us righteous (Rom 5:1) because of our faith in Christ. If that is the case then what unrighteousness is God cleansing me from in 1John 1:9 when I confess?

  32. Isn’t repentance a form of confession? Paul told the Corinthians to repent and they did, 2 Corinthians 7: 9,10. They were believers, but still repented, a repentance that “works to salvation”. They did not confess righteousness, they repented of their sin, their unrighteousness.
    Paul first admonished them, “…dearly beloved (Christians), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Only avenue’s to this self cleansing is confession and repentance.
    Looks like Paul put the responsibility to deal with their sin squarely on them.

    • If he did, he would be insulting the cross. Don’t forget, Tom, that before Paul addressed their sin, he reminded the Corinthians of their secure identity in Christ. In the beginning of his first letter he calls them saints. He then reminds them that they are called to be holy, in other words, be who you already in Christ – holy and righteous (see 1 Cor 1:30). Repentence means a change of mind; confession means agreeing with God. So yes, if you are disagreeing with what the Lord says about you, you need to change your unbelieving mind. What we do follows from what we believe.

      • 1 Cor. 1 is a long way from 2 Cor.7.lol. No, I see your point! But Jesus’s command to the woman caught in adultery was not to change her mind,as her mind was busy thinking of the wonderful “gracious” words flowing from Jesus.(A beginning of a changed mind) But he commanded her to sin no more.That’s repentance.
        Paul would deal no differently. Thanks

      • I wouldn’t say he commanded her; he empowered her. Paul agreed for he said the grace of God “teaches (or trains) us to say no to ungodliness.” It doesn’t command us. Paul knew how useless the commands were when it came to resisting sin (see Romans 7).

  33. Good words Paul. We often look at the word repentance and think “feel sorry.” If I sin, I must feel sorry for that sin and not do it any longer. But the word is metanoia, which really means “change your mind.” Paul acknowledges their sorrow and their changed mind. He’s not telling them to be more sorry. It seems to me through that this passage isn’t talking about the individual sins of the Corinthians, but about their collective acceptance of the man living with his stepmother from Paul’s first letter, and their change of mind about him.

  34. I would like someone’s thoughts on the idea of righteousness from the 1John passage.

  35. Yet Jesus was grace personified to her at that moment. Command?, teach?, its both useless if we disobey, as Jesus told (warned) the paralitic, John 5:14 , “…sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you.”This was no useless command ,teaching, it was a love tap.
    Thirty-eight years’ lameness, one would think, was a thing bad enough; yet there is something worse that will come to him if he relapse into sin after God has given him such a deliverance.

  36. If we are already forgiven and cleansed before we confess our sin then why did John bother at all with writing 1 Jn 1 v 9?He could have just reminded them that while they were completely forgiven at the cross, sin is inconsistent with their new nature and that there are serious consequences to continuing in sin? Furthermore Peter and Pauls dealings with,respectively, Ananias and Saphira and the adulterous stepson suggest real grief and anger on the part of the Holy Spirit?(whom you tell us forgave them at the cross)Lastly I am skeptical that the first chapter of 1 John was addressed only to unbelieving gnostics becoz elsewhere in scripture unbelievers are always told to place their faith in Christ when receiving Him into their lives?Are there any reputable NT scholars who the argument that chap 1 was addressed only to unbelievers?

    • The audience that 1 John 1:9 is aimed at is addressed in the article. Others articles dealing with that are linked above also. But for me verse 3 says it was addressed to unbelievers, “that you may also have fellowship with us”.
      Ananias and Saphira were members of the church but notice they are not called brother and sister while many others in Acts are titled as brother this or sister that. This lack strongly indicates that they were not true believers but along for the ride.

      • Colleen.Thankyou for your reply.Is not your assessment of Ananias and Saphira really based upon how you believe Christians can only behave?Truth is Christians have committed sins just as bad if not worse than than financial fraud.People also say Simon the Sorcerer could not have been saved becoz he saught to buy the holy spirit.Peter indignantly told him and his money to perish or otherwise repent and seek forgiveness from God but Simon was baptized and numbered amongst the believers from Samaria!

  37. I should add for clarification that John does not require said unbelievers in 1 John 1v9 to confess christ indicating that in all probability he was addressing believers.

    • it could also be that these people were actually confessing Christ… but there was no belief in their hearts. for example, the sons of sceva were not saved but cast out devils in Jesus’ name… and Jesus Himself said that many would come saying “we prophesied and did miracles and cast out demons in your name,” but He denied them because He never knew them. they were honoring God with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him. people can say they believe in Jesus or the power of Jesus’ name without actually being saved😉

  38. Hi David.

    When I read 1 Jn 2v12 it states “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven” Here he is addressing those he calls God’s children. I agree with you that this epistle is written to both believers and non believers, however it doesn’t follow through that all verses are written to only one or the other. I think 2v12 is reminding that God’s children’s sins have been forgiven. They are forgiven because of what Jesus has done and the only work that Jesus requires to be forgiven is to believe in the one the Father sent which is Jesus. Gnosticism was prevalent in the early church, they denied the deity of Christ, mixed Christianity with paganism and Jewish philosophies and did not believe that Christ died and rose again physically. Salvation could be obtained by higher knowledge( not a knowledge of Christ who came to earth in the flesh) than the believers had and also that Spirit and matter (body) were separate, so one could sin in the body but it would not affect the spirit.

    We were given the Holy Spirit when we did the only work that Jesus said was required so the Holy Spirit who Jesus promised lives in those who believe in Jesus. So the primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convince/convict (whichever word you choose to use but I prefer convince) that Jesus the man is whom he said he is. When we do our sins have been forgiven. That is why I believe V1:9 is not written to believers because 2v12 is telling them their sins have been forgiven. I agree that you are right that when we do sin it is inconsistent with our new nature but it has been forgiven and when we realise that I think it empowers us to walk in what we are. Fully accepted and loved in Christ.

    • Bill.Thank you for your explanation.Up and till now I’ve always accepted the traditional view that 1John 1v 9 was addressed to believers.As a result I have always felt burdened by the tiresome and depressing cyclical nature of sin,confession and repentance like a ball chain around my ankle.In fact I grew so tired of the dos and donts I left church and have not been back for nearly 10 years.But If as the hyper gravers say all our future sins are forgiven (as well as past sins)that would free me from the stressful need to be always ‘confessing’ my sin in order to appease God.I am intrigued by the debate.PS I am not looking for a liscence to live like the Dickens!!

      • Hi David, bless you my friend and I hear what you are saying and lived it. I stopped going to church for 15 years. For three years before that I served in ministry in the church. Every night of those 15 years I would wake up in fear at the same time every night knowing I would stand before God wondering what would happen. I took some comfort from that because at least I believed God is whom he said he is but there must be more to the life that a God has given me. In the OT a sacrifice was made once a year for the covering of sins. When Jesus died he made a once for all sacrifice for all our sins. He became our sin and gave us his righteousness. The fact that we don’t want to sin and hate doing so is a good thing. It shows that our Father has written the law on our hearts. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin, that sin was unbelief in him. He also said the only work required was to believe in him. God them promises to complete the good work in us that he started.

        We don’t need to appease God we just need to walk in faith that we are forgiven and can call him Abba Father who tore that big temple curtain in two. PS I came back to church 3 years ago.

  39. If we read the Bible, we see that confession never shows up anywhere in the life of Abraham, the father of our faith. He makes so many mistakes, and yet God is gracious to him and keeps blessing him. Why is that? It’s because Abraham is not under Law, but under Grace looking forward to the New Covenant in Christ. But then God gave Moses the Law, and voila the first mention of Confession appears in Leviticus. John the Baptist commands confession to Israel under Law because they had strayed so far away from the Law and needed to repent because they diluted the Law to an easy standard, whereas the Law was given to bring them to the realization of the Savior, Jesus.
    Then after Jesus dies and fulfills the Law, we barely see any mention of confession any more. Paul who wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles does not even once mention anything about confession of sins, why, because all our sins are forgiven.
    In 1 John 1:9, John tells certain heretics who did not believe Jesus came in the flesh and not believe in sin, to confess that they were sinners, so that they could be saved.
    How do we know that? Read the entire epistle to see John distinguishing between believers and unbelievers. In 1 John 2, John calls believers forgiven.
    We don’t need confession to be forgiven or be in fellowship simply because God has forgiven all our sins once and for all. We can be honest with God but not to appease him, but to receive grace and be open just like a son talks to a loving non-judgmental Dad without fear.

  40. Warren (South Carolina, USA) // March 28, 2016 at 1:19 am // Reply

    WOW Saint Paul…..this is an awesome post. I really like the clarity you bring to 1john2:1b. Who are we going to listen to? God is the correct choice obviously. I like when you said it takes NO faith to agree with the accuser (when we sin), but it takes faith to agree with what God says about us (when we sin) due to the blood of His son, and when we do sin, our Advocate speaks on our behalf, something like “they are eternally cleaned of all unrighteousness because of My Blood!”
    Blessings,
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

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