Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The Finality of The Cross P24 (09-29-21)
Understanding 1 John 1:9
Listen as Bob George provides the proper context of 1 John 1:9, as that is the most misquoted and misunderstood passage of scripture. Many people think this scripture is written to believers, and think it means that, as Christians, when we sin, we need to confess that sin to God in order to either get back in relationship or back in fellowship with God. There are those who think you can lose salvation and those who think you can get out of fellowship with God, that somehow God is so mad at you because of sinning that you do. It’s important to understand that anything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
First of all, this passage is a letter written by a pastor to a mixed audience of lost and saved people. In particular, there were Gnostics among them bringing their heretical teaching. The Gnostics do not believe Jesus is God come in the flesh because they have this teaching of dualism, that all matter is evil and only spirit is good. Because of this, the Gnostics also believe that man does not have a sin nature. Everything is just an illusion, as one waking up from a bad dream. You are not really sick but just think you are sick. You are not really dead but just think you are dead. The only thing that is real is spirit. Gnosticism is the forerunner to what we know today as Christian Science where nothing is real that you can see. In essence, as the apostle John writes, they are of the spirit of the antichrist.
1 John 2:21-23
21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist – denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
So this pastor called upon the only living apostle at the time, the apostle John, for help in addressing the matter. So he is reading this letter from the apostle John to this assembly of people here in Ephesus. He first addresses the crowd, composed of lost and saved people. In the first ten verses in 1 John, he addresses particularly the Gnostics among them, and later addresses the believers as those who know the truth and who have a defense advocate with the Father (1 John 2).
1 John 1:1-10
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Starting out from verse 1, the “we” refers particularly to the apostles but also to those believers alive during this time who had seen Jesus, those who have seen the risen savior, who walked and talked with him. 1 Corinthians 15 refers to over 500 people who saw the risen Savior. They are making an appeal to the you out there, whether lost or saved, concerning who Christ is, whom they have seen and heard and proclaim is the Word of life, who is eternal life and was with the Father and has appeared to us. In verse 3, the fellowship being referred to here is fellowship with the Father and then with us only after having fellowship with the Father. If you do not have fellowship with the Father, then you are in darkness, lost. And what do light and darkness have in common (2 Corinthians 6:14)? The emphasis is on fellowship with the Father. However, it should be noted that the “we” used in verse 6, for example, is an editorial “we”, meaning that anyone, you, me or anyone else, and where the message is applicable to you, take it to heart.
So the passage emphasizes the contrast between light and darkness. These expressions in scripture refer to saved and lost, respectively. Jesus is referred to as the light of the world (John 8:12), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the living Word came down from heaven (John 1:1-14, John 6:51), and the Word is truth (John 17:17, John 14:10). Recall Jesus confronting the Pharisees in regard to what truth is.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
So, in essence, there are two types of people in the world. There are those who have truth living in them, who have the Spirit of God living in them, and truly have God as their Father, having been made into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a child of God (John 1:11-13), having been born again (John 3). Those are the saved, who are controlled, or internally led, by the Spirit of God and are in the light because God, who is Light, is living in them. There are those who do not have the Spirit of God living in them, which is the default depraved, fallen condition of all men at birth (Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12), and by default are under the control of the evil one, Satan, who has deceived the whole world (John 8:44, 2 John 1:7). Those are the lost, those living in darkness, whom God sent Jesus to seek and to save (Luke 19:10), to redeem, and to transfer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
So, 1 John 1:9 is not written to a Christian to confess their sins to God, but to the lost among them. Verse 9 comes after verse 8, which is speaking to you out there, if you claim to be without sin, which is what the Gnostics were claiming, then the truth is not in you. The Gnostics, in essence, were also claiming to be believers, and just like today, there are those who are professors of Christ but not possessors of Christ. If the truth is not in you, then you are lost.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
So he is really speaking to the Gnostics among them, but also to anyone who is hanging onto such teaching of the Gnostics, to take to heart what I am saying to you. And in verse 10, if we believed we have no sin, as some among us believe, then we too would be a liar and the truth would not be in us, and if the truth is not in us, then we are lost.
In essence, if you do not even know you are a sinner, realizing your condition of death, then what value does the cross have to you? You do not even know you are a sinner! If you do not even know that, you do not even know that you are dead spiritually, without the Spirit of God living in you! Why did Christ die for you? If you realize that you are a sinner, and Jesus died to take away the cause of your death, which is sin, then the cross has meaning. You would realize that your sins are already forgiven when Jesus shed His blood on a cross for you, and that before you were even born (Romans 5:10). You have already been reconciled to God. Then if you realize your sin caused your death to God, your separation from a vital living relationship with a God who loves you, then you realize you need new life (2 Corinthians 5:20). You have to come to the same conclusion that Paul did of how wretched you really are and who can save me from this body of death (Romans 7:24-25).
The only life available to you is the life in Christ Jesus, eternal life (John 17:3). Jesus is God in the flesh and anyone who denies that is of the antichrist spirit (1 John 2:22). So be reconciled (Romans 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:20). Come to Jesus for Him, and in Him is forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 5:20). Jesus came to give you life (John 10:10), and His death was a necessary preparation for that life to be given (John 19:31). Come to Jesus for life. What is that life? The Light of the world so you do not have to walk in darkness. It is the truth of God concerning His Son, who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).