Call-In Classic Christianity Radio – Bob George P660 (08-12-21)
What About 1 John 1:9 and Romans 13?
Some of the most common questions asked about concern passages of scripture in 1 John 1:8-9 and Romans 13. When I sin as a believer, am I out of fellowship with God? And if so, do I have to confess my sins, to get back in fellowship with God? As believers in the New Covenant, are we to obey civil law? But I thought somewhere in scripture I read that God came to abolish the law. So what does that mean that a believer is no longer under the law?
First, let us read the full passage of scripture in 1 John. Then, let us ask some questions. Who is the author of 1 John speaking to? Believers or non-believers? Also, realize that this is translated into English from Greek. Could the translation into English be a poor translation? If it was literally translated from the Greek, what would it really be saying? If it was saying what many people think it is saying, how would that contradict other clear scriptures such as John 19:30, Romans 5:10, Hebrews 9:20 and Hebrews 10:17-18. A common principle in interpretation is to base your doctrine on the many scriptures that are clear rather than on one scripture that is not as clear.
In the beginning of 1 John, and having a background of understanding that this pastor consulted the last living apostle, the apostle John, in how to deal with the Gnostics, with their heretical teaching, infiltrated among the church, stirring up confusion among the believers. So this pastor is first addressing the Gnostics. That is why he is explaining how they have seen Jesus with their own eyes, that our hands have touched, and this Jesus is God in the flesh, who is eternal life. Believers among them would know that. So he is speaking to those Gnostics among them. We also know that he is talking to the Gnostics because of verse 8, that if you, a Gnostic, claim to be without sin, you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you. If the truth is not in you, and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, then you do not have the Spirit of Christ Jesus living in you either. And if you do no have Christ living in you, then you do not belong to Him and you are lost. So the context reveals the meaning of 1 John 1:9.
As far as fellowship, what is meant by fellowship in the context of 1 John. The pastor addresses that in the first several verses. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you [the Gnostic, the lost ] also may have fellowship with us [ the born again believers]. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” So we see that if you are in fellowship, then you are saved, and if you are out of fellowship, you are lost.
Now, since we now know 1 John 1:9 was written to the lost, not the saved, then what could this passage mean about confessing sins?
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
First of all, this is a poor translation into English. We know from Romans 5:10 and John 2:2 (NASB) that Jesus took away the sins of the entire world, never to be seen by God again, all sins back to Adam and forward to eternity to the person yet to be born. Consider that Jesus died before you and I living today were ever born. From Hebrews 10 and 2 Corinthians 5:19, we know that in the New Covenant, God remembers our sins no more and is not counting sins anymore. So if God is not counting sins, why should we, as believers, be counting them? And if sins have all been judged by God through Jesus’ shed blood, and according to Hebrews 9:20, that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, then we certainly do not confess sins to get sins forgiven. They are already forgiven. In fact, the word confess does not even mean to ask for forgiveness. It means to agree with God.
But this passage, 1 John 1:9, is written to the lost. So what does the lost need to do? He hopefully comes to his senses, and realizes God already reconciled the world unto Himself through the death of Jesus on a cross. So now he appreciates the cross, realizing he is a sinner and God already paid the price for his sins. Then, realizing he is dead to God, dead spiritually and is in need of life, to live in a new and different way than the way he is now ashamed of. He knows he cannot do it by means of the law, so he needs someone who can do it through him. He comes to realize that in Christ he becomes a forgiven person, that in Christ is where the forgiveness of sins provided upon a cross 2000 years ago, is received. He comes to Christ to receive life and in that life is the forgiveness of sins. That is what 1 John 1:9 is really expressing, but the way it is rendered into English is rather confusing. But from studying the Greek, you can come to understand it is written in an aorist past tense and a certain kind of “if” expressing that if you, Gnostic, or lost person, come to your senses, you will come to understand all that God has already provided for you in Christ Jesus.
Second, God certainly did not come to abolish civil law, otherwise there would be lawlessness and disorder. The law is made for the unrighteous until faith should be revealed. In regard to the perfect Law of God, as summarized in the ten commandments, Jesus came to fulfill the law, because no person can completely obey the law, and if they fail once they have disobeyed all of the law. But Jesus went further than an external written code. He spoke about the sin of adultery, that if you lusted after another woman in your heart then you already committed adultery. Jesus also said for us to be perfect as His Father is perfect and to be holy as His Father is holy. We cannot do that, be perfect and be holy, and that is the whole point. Jesus came to prove the world wrong about sin. Anything that does not come from faith is sin. How often do we not trust Jesus every day? The one sin Jesus is most concerned about concerning us is the sin of unbelief in Him, in His provision for us so we might have life in His name.
The law is necessary for the lost, and so the law will never go away. This includes civil law, and all good civil laws are derived from the nature and character of God, and Romans 13 presumes proper governmental leaders over us for our good. With that said, all good laws are fundamentally based on the ten commandments of God. When addressing how a person is designed to function as a new creation, a born again believer, he is to function by walking in the Spirit. When a believer is walking in the Spirit he will not carry out the desires of the flesh, and so will be obeying the law, and those good civil laws.
As far as God is concerned, the believer is no longer under condemnation. Why? Because God took the complete and final punishment for all sins by taking all the sins of mankind upon Himself. Propitiation took place. That means God was completely satisfied with the shed blood of Jesus on a cross as full payment for sin. Therefore, once a case is tried and finalized in the courtroom of heaven, that case cannot be tried again. We were declared guilty, but Jesus took the punishment for our sins, so there is no judgment left for us. The only sin attributable to man is the sin of unbelief, rejecting what Christ Jesus accomplished for you by His death, burial and resurrection.
But as far as the local law of the land, those are laws to be obeyed, whether believer or non-believer, but of course the internal motivation of a believer to obey is not by the letter of the law but on the fact they are a new creation, with the love of God in his heart, where love does its neighbor no wrong. It is important to note, that there are unjust laws and unconstitutional laws that many people do not understand and are obeying evil rather than good. A Christian has the Holy Spirit alive living in them pointing out those laws that are just and those that are unjust. A lost person does not have the love of God, the Holy Spirit living in him, so he has to be tutored by the perfect law of God until the time faith is revealed to him. Some point in time, hopefully he will see that the law puts him to death, where he finds himself sometimes obeying and other times failing to obey the law, and that in terms of an external law, until he realizes the inner attitude of the heart God is concerned about. Eventually, he is put to death by the law, meaning he identifies his condition of spiritual death, so he may seek a Savior. But for a believer, in regard to civil law, the apostle Paul admonishes the believers in 1 Corinthians in regard to such matters as a believer taking another believer to court. In other words, since you are a new creation in Christ, walk in that new identity as a child of God, with a new nature, Christ alive living in you. Although everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). Beneficial to whom? To one another, particularly the body of Christ. As Christ loved you, so love one another. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
Order from our online store: Bible Studies, Books, Witnessing Tracts, Audio Cds, DVDs and More.
Purchase and download Bible Studies, the Closer Look Series & more.