January 2012


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 1:9-2:1

Week 16:  Jan  8, 2012

We return to the study of First John. Having refuted the second claim, John now turns to the correct teaching.


ii.            Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

1:9 –  If we make it our habit to confess our sins, in his faithful righteousness he forgives us for those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

–          confess here is present active, which indicates an ongoing process. Confession is not just something we do when we are saved; it is something that we continually do as we seek forgiveness for sin.

in his faithful righteousness

–          The forgiveness that follows confession stems from both the faithfulness of God and his righteousness.   He is faithful, and so forgives us because he said he would.   That he is righteous shows that he can, as Jesus paid the price for our sins.

he forgives us for those sins

–          Some see a significance in the word Forgives (ἀφῇ).  It basically means “to leave” but takes on a variety of meaning depending on the context.   In terms of locations such as a city, it means to leave that location.   But when used of an object such as a book, it means to leave it in place.  In reference to people it means to send them way or to let them go.  For financial transactions it refers to canceling, or forgiving a debt.   In terms of sin, it means simply to pardon or forgive.  But his range of meaning does show why context is so important when determining the meaning of a word.  One certainly would not want to use the meaning for objects, i.e., to leave in place, in this context.

cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

–          The passage says that God not only forgives us, but that He also cleanses us.   Most commentators see cleanse and forgive as the same.   If so then the use of both in this passage is a form of emphasis

I, however, think there is a distinction here. John’s key premise is that God is Light and can have no darkness.  God not only forgives us, he cleanses us and it is this cleansing that allows us to have fellowship with him.  This is why confession of sin is so important.

I also think there is an implied argument here:

Since the opponents did not think that they had sin, there was no confession

Since there was no confession, there was no forgiveness

Since there was no forgiveness, they were still in darkness

Since they were still in darkness, they had no fellowship with God.

How does the teaching of Light and darkness line up with the modern Churches view of sin? This is one of those balancing acts.  Sin is a serious matter, yet the ability to confess and be forgiven has lead some to the false belief that it is no big deal.  Yet if we focus too much on sin, we miss the blessings of forgiveness.  Only though constant pray can we keep the correct balance.

1:10 –  If we say that we have never sinned, we make him a liar and his word has no place in us.

–          John now moves on to the Claim #3 : we have never sinned

With this claim, it is unclear whether this is an actual claim made by John’s opponents, or if this is a summary of the other two claims.  In support of it being a summary, the claim we have never sinned is very close to Claim #2 that we do not have any sin. On the other hand, it could be a response to the implied argument;  I need no forgiveness because I have never sinned.  While the distinction would have been important to the people to which John wrote,  it is largely irrelevant to us.  We are not caught up that particular controversy, and instead are looking for the universal applications that apply to us and this is the same for both understandings.

–          Refutation #3: we make him a liar

The him here is God.  To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar.

1 Kings 8:46   When they sin against you—because there isn’t a single human being who doesn’t sin…

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each of us, to his own way;

Rom 3:23  since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory

his word has no place in us.

–          One cannot be in fellowship with God and deny his word.   To deny sin is to deny the need for forgiveness and to deny the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross.   For someone to do this, it is no wonder that John would say that his word (λόγος)  has no place in them.

b.      Expansion: Keep His Commandments (2:1-6)

i.            Jesus the Messiah is our advocate (2:1-2)
2:1 – My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you might not sin. Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah[1], one who is righteous.

My little children

–          John seems to mark transition/emphasis with such phrases, as he does here.   Before going on to give the third counter teaching, he wants to make sure that he is being clear about the nature of forgiveness.

I’m writing these things to you

–          Note the change from 1:4 – We are writing these things. While 1 John 1:4 referred to the writings of the eyewitness, i.e., the New Testament, here these things, is referring to what he has just written.

so that you might not sin.

–          One possible conclusion of the teaching John has just given is that it is ok to sin; after all we can always seek forgiveness.  Paul realized this as well after giving similar teaching to the church at Rome.  Thus in Romans 6:1-2 Paul rhetorically asks,  What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Of course not! Likewise, here, John points out that forgiveness of sin is not a license to sin, and this would run counter to the teaching of God’s Word.  We do not have forgiveness so that we can sin.  We have forgiveness of sin, so we can have relationship with God.

Having clarified that this is not a license to sin, John proceeds on to Counter – Teaching #3 :

Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah

–          The word for advocate (παράκλητον) here is the same word as in John 14:16 referring to the Holy Spirit.  It literally means to call alongside, to encourage, to exhort.  It is one of those words for which there is no single English word.  It can refer to a lawyer, but the concept here is far more than just legal counsel.  It refers to someone who really cared for you well-being.   It can refer to a counselor, or a comforter, or helper, but these are likewise too limited.  You can think of this a as dear friend who is your lawyer, who counsels, comforts and helps you. In the context here, the lawyer/advocate part has the primary the focus.  As Jesus will argue for our forgiveness before the Father

one who is righteous

–          Jesus can take this role because he is righteous. We are unrighteous and have no basis upon which to ask forgiveness, but Jesus can ask on our behalf.   Jesus died for our sins, and yet remains righteous because he is infinite.  Regardless of how many people will have ever lived, or how much sin they have committed, it will in the end be finite amount.  When heaven and earth pass away, there will have been a certain number of people who committed a certain number of sins.  However big it will be, it will be finite, but Jesus is infinite.  However big humanities sin, his righteousness will overwhelm it as drop of black ink, dropping in a white ocean the size of the universe.  Thus he can bear our sins and still be righteous.  It is on this basis that he will ask for our forgiveness and we can be assured that we will be forgiven.

Next week will pick up with 1 John 2:2.

If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

See here for references and more background on the class.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


1 2:1 Or Christ

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