One of the main parts of Christianity is the teaching of forgiveness. Paul told the church in Colossae, “13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13). Through this verse we can see that in Christ we have forgiveness today. How many sins were forgiven? If you believe in Christ as your savior, all have been forgiven.
So, let’s ask the question, what about 1 John 1:9? This verse reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). The question we must ask is this, “who was John writing to? Understanding who he was the intended audience can help us understand this verse. In the very first verse of this book we see no introduction. This is different from other Scripture where the Apostle Paul writes and says, “”to the saints in Ephesus.” The very first verse of this book says, “…what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands…” (1 John 1:1). Here we can see that the Disciple John was countering the first heresies of the early Church, Gnosticism. The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” They believed that Jesus did not come in the flesh and were denying their sin. I like what Author Paul Ellis wrote, “We have this rose-tinted view of the early church as a place of harmony and accord.” Really, they struggled with false beliefs just as we do today.
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) has a twelve-step plan to help people fight against their struggle with alcohol. The first step is called, “admit.” They get them to admit that they have a problem. I believe that this is similar to what the Apostle John was writing in 1 John 1. He wanted them to confess their sins and realize their need for a savior. This is one of the first steps in the life on a new convert. We first admit that we have sinned and realize our need for a savior. This was the purpose of the law. The law was brought in so that our knowledge of sin would increase and we would see our need for Christ.
I still confess my sins to my father because I have a relationship with Him and I love Him. I confess because I have been forgiven and saved, not to gain it. I do not believe that John was intending for us to use 1 John 1:9 as an antidote for every time that we sin. In my opinion, we can swing the pendulum too far from one side to the other. We must have a balanced understanding of forgiveness. We go to God when we are joyful, sad, angry, and when we sin.
God does not cleanse us from our sin based upon our memory of sins. If God did that, there would a huge amount of sins that we would simply forget to confess. The Scripture tells us that, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). There are many things that I do which are not of faith. God cleanses my sin because of my memory of Jesus. When we go to God, we say the same thing that He has declared about our sin, it is forgiven!
Remember even when we fail, God is right there to pick us back up. Go to God and be honest with your father. Let’s not be like the Gnostics and deny our failures. Instead let’s go to God because He has completely forgiven us. Begin to lay your head at night in peace knowing that God has forgiven you of all of your sins.