Are You Saved? Examining 1 John 1:9

A man confessed to his pastor, “I’m having an affair Saturday night with a married woman, but don’t worry. It’s OK. Tomorrow I’m gonna 1 John 1:9 it.”

Is such a thing realistic? legitimate? Possible? Is 1 John 1:9 a confessional we can quietly slip into whenever we sin and receive absolution? Is this how the Christian life works? Does the Bible teach such a thing? Many pastors, expositors, commentators, and even seminaries teach that this verse can be used as a salve to cleanse ourselves of sin. However, that interpretation completely destroys the doctrines of God’s Grace and Salvation and the teachings of the Apostles as well as the finished work of Jesus Christ.

It is difficult to be brief here where we are focusing on one verse in a ten-verse chapter. Let’s look at it:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”  1 John 1:9.

     Verses six and seven give clarity to verse nine, 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”  1 John 1:7 (KJV).

For Christians, the Good News of the Gospel is that we are CLEANSED…forgiven. Our sins were completely washed away through faith in the completed work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross,a When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions”  Colossians 2:13 (NASB).

We have had all our sins washed away. ALL of them, yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s.

God knows we aren’t perfect. He knows that from time to time we stray from the path of the good little sheep we are intended to be. Over time, we stray less and less as we mature in Christ. God isn’t looking to condemn us.a(v17) He’s not intending to toss us to the wolves. After all, we are His children, SEALED by the Holy Spirit. Think about that. When we were born again, we become children of God. We can’t become unborn. When we were born in the flesh we were born into earthly, physical families. Likewise, when we were born spiritually, we were born into a spiritual family, the family of God, from which we cannot be unborn.

12 . . . as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”  John 1:12-13 (KJV).

     Salvation isn’t conditional. It’s SALVATION! We can’t fall in and out of God’s Grace or His family. It just doesn’t work like that. Read those verses well. We are both sealed and given (filled with) the Spirit. This is why there is no efficacy in using 1 John 1:9 as a confessional. We have already been forgiven and sealed.

“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”
2 Corinthians 1:22 (KJV).
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”  Ephesians 1:13 (KJV).

     Yes, there are people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, who blatantly sin and eventually fall away, denying Jesus is the Christ. Read the parable of the “sower and the seeds” in Matthew 13. The soil represents the different “heart” conditions of the people upon whom the seeds of the Gospel fall…some to faith and some to everlasting condemnation.b “For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes”  Luke 6:44 (KJV).

God seeks those with broken hearts and contrite sprites. He desires REPENTANCE, not confession (Psalm 34:18). Twenty-four times in the KJV we are pleaded with to “REPENT.” Repenting isn’t confessing. It isn’t dragging up everything we have done in the past. It is making a moral turn from sin to God. When first saved, we are still 99% carnal and only 1% spiritual…that old nature is still strong within us, taunting us—but we ARE saved. Over time God works in us to conform us to the image of His Son. Paul assures us, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”  Philippians 1:6 (KJV). Like the loving father God is, He corrects us. Correction is NOT punishment. It is instruction. It turns us back to the path and strengthens our relationship with the Creator.

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”  Hebrews 12:6-7 (KJV).

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand”  John 10:28-29 (KJV).

     Then how does 1 John 1:9 fit in? Well, it doesn’t. If you think you can use this verse as a “Free Pass” to absolve your sins, like the guy in the story above, then you haven’t yet come to Christ and aren’t yet a child of the Living God. You are still in your sins, walking in darkness. This holds true for the confessional as well. Neither is a free pass to sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”  1 John 1:9.

     Consider the context: Who is John addressing? Why is he saying this? What is John trying to teach? To get the context we need to start at verse one and read through verse 10. Like so much of everything in our lives, context is key.

At that time Gnosticism, which grew out of the Hellenistic Jewish movement, was on the rise and trying to pry its foot through the door of the fledgling Christian Church—called “The Way.” The Gnostics believed that they had special knowledge and didn’t believe they were sinners…they didn’t believe in sin. They thought that true life was in the spirit realm, not the material. Absurdly, the Gnostics claimed that whatever happened in the flesh didn’t matter because in (their) reality they were in the spirit. Thus, John says to them,

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

No rational person, much less a Jew, would ever say, “I have no sin.” Sin is why the Jews offered sacrifices of atonement at the Temple. Non-Jews also believe in sin. All men instinctively know they are sinners…though many try to deny it. That’s why all cultures are RELIGIOUS—to justify themselves before their gods. In contrast, Christianity…true Christianity…is not a religion. It is FAITH in Jesus Christ who freed us from the burden of our sins, taking them upon himself to the cross.

Gnosticism is based on two false premises. First, it espouses a dualism regarding spirit and matter. Gnostics assert that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.”

Not believing in sin,d Gnostics are unrepentant. They believe that because Christ was sinless His manifestation could not have been in the flesh but had to be spiritual.

This brings us to verse 9:

9 If we confessc our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

     This is part of the CONVERSION EXPERIENCE—admitting what we already know, that we are sinners and trusting God to forgive us of ALL sins, for all time, through the cross of Christ. A once-and-for-all done deal.

Verse nine answers verse eight which is Gnosticism as amplified in verse ten. If we deny the truth and claim that we have no sin and that Christ did not come in the flesh, then we are lost. We refuse salvation which is a free gift to all who believe and trust in Jesus Christ.

He is faithful and true when we accept Him as Lord and Savior to cleanse us of ALL unrighteousness. Believers do slip up, but are corrected and chastised as necessary for our own benefit and spiritual health by our LOVING FATHER.

10 If we say that we have not sinned (Gnostic), we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

Simple and clear. The evidence of SIN is SIN itself. Anyone who claims that there is no sin has no truth in himself and has no fellowship with the FAMILY of God. They are not walking in “The Way.” If they admit that they are a sinner, God is Gracious and True to FORGIVE them.

Exploring Scripture
     ~because it matters – it really does

a. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

b. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18 (NASB)

c. confess (HOMOLOGEO) to assent, accord, agree with – to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of, resulting in inward conviction.

d. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23 (KJV)


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