Posted By Aaron Marcelli on October 4, 2011
The second piece of disagreeing feedback I received from someone who read my book was over my usage of 1 John 1:9. This popularly quoted verse says that if we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive them. At one point in my book I stated the context of that verse is that it was written to non-believers, calling them to salvation. Someone who read my book disagreed with that and emailed me to challenge me on it.
My defense is…………….I was wrong.
To be honest I heard a speaker say this one time and I was simply repeating what I heard inaccurately taught about this passage of Scripture. Doing so is poor research on my part and I now realize I was wrong.
My point about the passage was that it is not a ‘fix-all’ for Christians to repeatedly quote so they can be guilt free while having unchanged behavior. Though my application was wrong my stance on this is still the same. The verse is not a model for repeated confession. I feel it is often taught in a way that says we’re all going to sin, but thankfully if we just go to God and confess our sins then it’s all good. Being able to say this verse was meant for non-Christians fit with my agenda so I put that spin on the verse. Again, I now realize this was wrong.
However, I still do not see 1 John 1:9 as a catchall for present sin. The verse is usually quoted out of context but the chapter of 1 John 1 very clearly has a ‘looking back’ theme. The writer is remembering what has been given. He is listing what the believers have done. He uses a lot of past-tense wording.
In that context I think verse 9 is saying that if we have (or since we have) confessed God has forgiven. The verse is not a mandate to be in continual confession as to receive continual forgiveness. John is teaching a promise. He is telling his readers that if (assumed) they have confessed then God has forgiven. They do not need to wonder if they have been forgiven or fear that their sin will be held against them. No, if they have confessed, then they have been forgiven. That attitude is consistent with the verses immediately before and after verse nine.
In looking at this chapter closer and reading better commentary on it I have to admit I made a mistake before and I hate that it went to print that way. My point though was to show that 1 John 1:9 is not saying Christians must continually seek forgiveness. I was trying to say that forgiveness occurs just once. Repentance is continuous. You are forgiven and become a Christian. Once you are a Christian you will realize your need to repent on a pretty regular basis.
Our motivation for this is not forgiveness though. It’s purity. It’s holiness. It’s a relationship with God that cannot exist while habitual sin is present. God has already forgiven us of that sin, but allowing it to stay in the picture keeps us from enjoying all the blessings of His forgiveness.