Pastor David B. Curtis

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Confessing Your Sin

(1 John 1:8-9)

Delivered 05/19/19

We are continuing our study in 1 John this morning. Last week someone sent me a link to a podcast on 1 John. The speaker had a very different take on 1 John than I do. He believes that it was written to a Jewish synagogue, and sees darkness as referring to the Old Covenant and light referring to the New Covenant. He believes that "fellowship" is equivalent to "salvation," and that John was calling these Jews to salvation in Christ. I can understand how he sees that, as you look at verses 6 and 7 his view seems to fit.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6 ESV

So, the Jews walking in the Old Covenant are in darkness, they are lost.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

If these Jews would walk in the light, the New Covenant, they would have fellowship/salvation with Yahweh, and Yeshua's blood would cleanse them from all sin. Can you see that? I have loosely held this view in the past. But here's some problems that I have with this view.

After the prologue John writes:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 ESV

John is saying the message we are proclaiming to you, Christ gave to us, and we are only relaying what He told us. And that message is this: "God is light"—the message is essentially one about the character of God.

What does he mean by saying, God is light? The "light" figure emphasizes many qualities in God: His splendor and glory, His truthfulness, His self-communicative nature, His purity. But here, the main idea is that He is holy. As the following context and the introduction of the light/darkness motif make clear, this involves the moral realm and thus constitutes a description of God's character as pure and completely sinless. So, I see the message here as, God is holy! And I'm sure that you understand that Yahweh was just as holy in the Old Covenant as He is in the New Covenant. So, I don't see that as a comparison between the Old and New Covenants.

Another problem with the podcasters views that I have would be that John wrote a Gospel specifically to bring men to Christ. The text of 1 John indicates that he is writing to believers; "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God" (John 5:13). He is writing so that believers would not sin, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin" (1 John 2:1). He doesn't say, I'm writing so you may get saved, or that you may trust in Christ, but that you may not sin. Only believers can refrain from sin through the power of the Spirit.

So, to me it seems clear that he is writing to believers, and gentile believers at that. Another problem for me is what he says in verse 7, "But if we walk in the light"this is a third class conditional meaning, "maybe you will and maybe you won't". "Walk" is a present tense which emphasizes continuing action. If walking in the light here is referring to New Covenant salvation how can John say, "If we"—including himself using a third class condition, "maybe I will and maybe I won't"? John can't maybe be saved, but he can maybe not walk in fellowship.

I see John using "walk" here in the Hebrew sense of lifestyle:

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV

"Walk" is the Greek verb peripateo, which means: "to walk, live, conduct one's life." It literally means: "to walk about or around." While peripateo is used in the New Testament of one's literal walk, it is often used metaphorically of one's behavior, conduct, of the way one lives. The Christian life is compared to walking. Walking becomes a visual aid to teach us how to live. We are to walk/live like Christ lived. Yeshua said,

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." John 8:29 ESV

Learning to walk or live to please Yahweh is a matter of biblical instruction. It is neither natural nor innate. Without the Word, there is simply no way any of us are going to be able to walk as we should, so we are able to please the Lord. Over and over again in the Tanakh, we read that God's people are to walk in His ways, statutes, and laws, i.e., according to the Word (Lev. 26:3; Deut. 5:33; 8:6; 10:12; Josh. 22:5). So, if we are not in the Word, we are not being reminded of what we are to do. How many of you know what a tsiytsiyt is?

"Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. Numbers 15:38 ESV

The word "tassel" here is the Hebrew word tsiytsith. The word tsiytsith is a noun derived from the word tsiyts, which is the blossom of a tree which will become its fruit. The tsiytsith is a blossom, not in appearance but in function. Why were they to wear this tsiytsith?:

And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. Numbers 15:39 ESV

The function of the tsiytsith is to be a reminder to the wearer to produce fruit. Fruit being the observance of the commandments. It was to remind them of the commandment of Yahweh so that they would walk in them.

The word Torah is usually translated as Law, but to the Hebrew it meant: "the journey." To a Hebrew "command" is the direction for the journey. "Righteous" is traveling on the path. And "wicked" is lost from the path. If we could grasp this Hebraic concept about Yahweh's Word, it would change our thinking and our walk.

We don't like commandments, they seem restrictive—"don't do this." But directions are helpful and beneficial—"go this way." If you want to get somewhere you must follow directions. If you are in Virginia Beach, and you want to go to Arizona, you have to follow the directions which would take you west. You cannot go east if you want to end up in Arizona. The same is true with Yahweh's directions. If you want a life of fellowship with the Father, a life of joy and peace, you must follow the directions that Yahweh has given us. To not follow the directions and leave the path is to not arrive at your goal of joy and fellowship. Yahweh has laid out the direction for the path in His Word. So, we need to read it, study it, and follow it.

and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 ESV

The word "come" is the Hebrew word halak, which means: "to walk." The Christian life is a journey that we are to walk.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

So, I don't see John using "walk" as meaning "believe" he is using it in its normal Hebrew sense as conduct. Walking in the light, living holy, does not bring us salvation, but it does keep us in fellowship with Yahweh who is in the light.

By "walking in the light" he means living up to what God shows us in His Word. These verses are not evangelistic verses. John is challenging Christian people to be in fellowship with God. What we have seen thus far is that fellowship with God is not an automatic thing:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

"If"—is a third class condition. Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you have fellowship with Christ. That needs to be made clear, walking in the light is a condition for fellowship.

Verses 2:6-2:1 contain six if-clauses. Three of them (vv. 6, 8, 10) are claims that the author views as false deductions to draw from the belief that God is light. These claims may be slogans or summaries of the position of the secessionists who have left the fellowship.

Verse 8 gives us the second of the three clauses beginning with "if we say" and representing the false teaching of the secessionists.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV

"If we say we have no sin"—the Greek word for "sin" here is hamartia. Thayer defines hamartia as: "to be without a share in, to miss the mark, to err, be mistaken, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor." This word occurs 17 times in 1 John.

In what sense do they mean, "We have no sin?" Some have interpreted the phrase "no sin" to mean no sin nature or no sin principle. But this seems out of harmony with John's other uses of "to have sin." Others see John alluding to some kind of dualism that held that sin resides in the material body and does not affect me, so that there is no such thing as sin in the Christian.

The Docetists, who later became in a certain form the Gnostics believed that the spirit, that part of the human being that was given by God to relate to Him, is pure; and the flesh, the physical, material realm, is that which is evil. Therefore, because they believed the spirit was pure, and that was all that really mattered to God, they believed that's all that should matter to them—but they claimed to be perfect in that particular realm of their being. So, you can understand how this doctrine started to influence the Church. These Docetists were teaching that the spirit, that part that had been quickened by God in salvation, was without sin.

Colin G. Kruse writes this, "Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, the words 'If we claim to be without sin …' are not here intended to reflect an assertion on the part of the secessionists that they have a sinless nature; that they are free from the sin principle which operates in other human beings. The expression 'to have sin' (ech hamartian) is found only here in 1 John, but it occurs four times in the Fourth Gospel (John 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11), and in each case it means to be guilty of sins. Allowing this usage to guide us, we would have to say that what the secessionists were claiming was, not that they were by nature free from the sin principle, but that they were not guilty of committing sins, by which they probably meant they had not sinned since they came to know God and experienced the anointing."

So, this may be a warning against all forms of perfectionism. The Quietist Movement that was originally popular among the Quakers and then became part of the Arminian perfectionist movement believed you could come to a post conversion experience in which you momentarily became so totally surrendered that you never sinned again—this is sinless perfection.

Within the sphere of Preterism there are some who are saying that sin ended in AD 70, and therefore, we do not sin today. This is a self-serving view that allows them to engage in all kinds of sinful behavior and say it is okay. But beyond AD 70 men still sin—hang on to this one—Christians still sin. You, still sin.

John says that "If we say we have no sin," "We deceive ourselves"—while making the claim "to be without sin" is presented as a complete act, the self-deception is presented as ongoing.

John is dealing with the potential acceptance of the adversaries' claims by some of the readers. If they were to accept the false teaching and claim to be free from the guilt of sin, they would be deceiving themselves.

"And the truth is not in us"—this is synonymous with deceiving oneself. The word "truth" is from the Greek altheia which occurs nine times in 1 John. From this survey of the use of the word "truth" in 1 John, it is clear that the Johannine understanding of truth is different from Greek notions of truth. The Johannine idea is of truth is found in the word of the Father turned to mankind, incarnate in Christ, illuminated through the action of the Spirit.

Verse 9 contains the second counter-claim of John,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ESV

This verse is the converse of verse 8. Acknowledging the sins of which we are aware is opposite to saying we are not guilty of sinning. There are some who insist that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with Christians, but it is an invitation to non-Christians.

"If we confess our sins"—"confess" is a compound Greek term homologeo which is from "to speak" and "the same" so this literally means: "to say the same thing. Confessing," therefore, means saying about our sins what God says about them, namely, that they are indeed sins, offenses against Him. It is present tense, which implies ongoing action. Believers continue to agree with God that they have violated His holiness.

Some say that believers are already forgiven of all sin and they don't need to confess their sins. What do you think? Well to not confess your sins would be to not agree with what God says about sin.

The confession of sin is not a theme that is found much in the New Testament. We really only see it in three other places. We see it in the Synoptic accounts of the ministry of John the Baptist when people came confessing their sins to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:15). We see it in James 5:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16 ESV

Is this saying that confessing our sins will bring healing? We need to back up to see the context:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 ESV

This person seems to be sick because of sin. So, he calls the elders and confesses his sin, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."

We also see confession of sin in Ephesus when the people confessed their evil deeds and burned their magical books during the ministry of Paul in that city (Acts 19:18).

Now since in each of these cases confession of sin was public, some teach that John is saying that you need to confess your sin in public. But since John doesn't specify the exact circumstances under which confession is to take place, I would say that the confession of sin by the believer is what is important, not the circumstances surrounding it.

The confession could be a private confession of sin by the believer in prayer to God. I think this is the main idea here. But it could also be private confession of sin by the believer to another believer. This could be because your sin was against another believer. Or this may be for accountability. Or this could be a public confession of sin by the believer to the Christian community, possibly in the context of a worship service. I have seen this in worship service, and it has been very encouraging to young Christians. It's good to know that you're not the only one struggling with living the Christian life.

I think that the believer's life should be marked by continual confession of sins. It begins at salvation and goes on throughout their life. We'll talk about this more in a few minutes, but it seems clear that confessing sin is a crucial part of walking in the light.

So, when the believer agrees with God about his sin then, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins"—Yahweh is a faithful God. Exodus 34:6 which also links God's forgiveness with his faithfulness may be behind this text:

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:5-6 ESV

The word "just" in our text is from the Greek word dikaios, which means: "righteous." Does that sound surprising? We might have expected "faithful and merciful" rather than "faithful and righteous." The word "righteous" seems unusual in a context related to a holy God freely pardoning unholy people. How God can be said to be righteous when He forgives the guilty. It is a problem which the apostle Paul had to deal with when explaining his gospel in Romans 3:21-26. So how is He just to forgive guilty sinners? He is just because our sins have already been paid for. He is faithful as a covenant-keeping God to His children to whom He has given the gift of salvation. And He is just when He forgives because the sins have been paid for.

Before the judgment throne of God, the sins of believers are forgiven even before they are committed and even if they are never confessed because God has said He has forgiven all our sins. As a righteous judge, He has done that because He thoroughly and completely punished Yeshua for our sins. The price is paid in full and therefore God by justice cannot hold us guilty because the price has been paid.

His faithfulness may refer to God's New Covenant promise made in:

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:34 ESV

So, John calls on the Old Covenant concept of God's steadfastness to the covenant that has been established by using familiar descriptions of God as one who does what is faithful and just.

Some expositors teach that this verse cannot apply to Christians, since God has already forgiven Christians, and therefore we do not need to ask for what we already have. For example, Romans 8:1 states,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV

Why, then, do we need to be forgiven again when we sin after salvation? This viewpoint fails to distinguish between positional forgiveness, that we receive at conversion, and family forgiveness that we need after conversion.

Positional forgiveness makes us as holy and righteous as Christ and members of God's family. Whereas family or practical forgiveness enables us to experience intimate fellowship as sons within God's family. Sin interrupts fellowship but cannot change our positional relationship. We see this positional relationship in Balaam's inspired utterance of Israel:

Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob, nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. Numbers 23:20-21 ESV

The word "misfortune" is from the Hebrew aven which is better translated as iniquity. We looked at this briefly last week where Yeshua in John 13 made the distinction between having a bath and having your feet washed.

"And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"—as the believer continues confessing their sin they are forgiven and cleansed. "Forgive and cleanse" are both aorist active subjunctives. These two terms are synonymous in this context; they refer both to the salvation of the lost and to the ongoing cleansing necessary for fellowship with God.

So, when a believer sins, he does not lose the forgiveness and cleansing that took place at salvation. But he does not experience it in his walk until he confesses his sin.

If Christians confess the sins they are aware of, they may be sure that God will forgive their sins and cleanse them not only from those sins they confess but from all unrighteousness.

This confession and forgiveness is an on-going process and that's why we are always confessing and always being forgiven and being cleansed. Your justification is a fixed and settled reality. Your practical sanctification ebbs and flows dependent on how you deal with the sin in your life.

When a believer refuses to walk in fellowship with Yahweh he puts himself in a position of discipline. God gets angry with His children when they sin:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV

Verse 6 is found in slightly different form in no less than five books of the Bible. It is also found in Proverbs 3:12, Job 5:17, Psalms 94:12 and Revelation 3:19. God repeats it so often so we won't forget that Divine Chastening proceeds from love.

The word "chastises" here is from the Greek word mastigoo which means: "to skin alive with a whip", indicating to us that God's discipline can sometimes be severe. Believer, God sees your sin, God is displeased with your sin, God disciplines you because of that sin, chastises you because you are His child and He cares about you progressing in holiness.

Believers today need to hear John's words about confessing our sins. A major national magazine ran an article called, "Pick-and-Choose Christianity. "This article summarized the results of a three-year study of Christians of all denominations in a midwestern state, pointing out that most church members "pick and choose" which of the teachings of Christianity they will accept and which they will leave behind. One of the least popular teachings was that regarding sin.

The article stated, "What many have left behind is a pervasive sense of sin. Although 98% said they believe in personal sin, only 57% accepted the traditional notion that all people are sinful and fully one-third allowed that they "make many mistakes but are not sinful themselves."

Confession is agreeing with God that sin is sin. But today people want to call it other things beside sin. You don't hear the term adultery much anymore, now we call it an affair. And as long as it's between consenting adults we think it's okay. But God calls it sin.

Today people say that killing an unborn baby is a woman's right. But God says that it is murder.

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' Matthew 5:21 ESV
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:6 ESV

The question of whether or not abortion is murder typically leads to asking what is a baby and what isn't yet a baby, but merely a "zygote", "embryo" or "fetus".

Dr. Jerome Lejeune, "Father of Modern Genetics," stated, "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place, a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence." Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic, added: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception."

The fact that a majority of Americans believe abortion is a woman's right does not make it right. To the contrary, it only increases the scale of the crime and rebellion against God: more babies now are murdered annually in America than the number of Jews who were murdered annually in the holocaust during the Second World War. The alarming statistics now show that an innocent, unborn child is killed by abortion every 22 seconds in the United States.

A professor in a college ethics class presented his students with a problem. He said, "A man has syphilis, and his wife has tuberculosis. They have had four children: one has died, the other three have what is considered to be a terminal illness. The mother is pregnant. What do you recommend?" After a spirited discussion, the majority of the class voted that she abort the child. "Fine," said the professor. "You've just killed Beethoven."

The Bible clearly condemns abortion, it is murder and murder is always wrong. But instead of confessing our sin, and saying what God says about abortion we say that a woman has a right to kill her unborn child. Today we have women marching in the streets to support their right to kill their own children.

Today we call homosexuality an alternative lifestyle, but God calls it an abomination.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26-27 ESV

The word "relations" is the Greek word chresis, which is a very well established term for sexual intercourse. And that is exactly what he's talking about. They carry on a sexual activity contrary to the intention of the creator. "Natural" here means: "in keeping with how God has designed people," and unnatural refers to behavior that is contrary to how God has made us.

In the Greek text the words translated "women" (thelus; v. 26) and "men" (arsen, v. 27) mean: "females" and "males." Paul's language is the language of sex.

Homosexuality is an unnatural relationship to oneself and to one's body. And, consequently, if we believe the words of Paul, it is contrary to God's order. This is the teaching of the whole of the Bible. In other words, the apostle says that the relationship of heterosexuality is that which is natural.

Natural here means in keeping with how God has designed people, and unnatural refers to behavior that is contrary to how God has made us. When man forsakes the author of nature, he forsakes the order of nature.

Today people who speak out against the practice of homosexuality as immoral are dubbed "homophobiacs" as though they now should be the ones in hiding. So now the evil of homosexuality has been surpassed by the evil of "homophobia." Opposition to homosexuality is not shameful; it is homosexuality that is shameful, as are all forms of immorality. Don't let them twist things and make us the bad guys because we won't accept their sin.

The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. But the media, educators, government agencies are increasingly portraying homosexuality in a more favorable light. Tragically, the most potent endorsement of the homosexual movement has come from the organized church.

How the church portrays the homosexual lifestyle will determine the beliefs of many, whether or not that portrayal is in harmony with the Scripture. It would be easy to conclude only liberal churches endorse the homosexual lifestyle. On the contrary, the largest homosexual denomination in the country is the "evangelical" Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC).

The first Metropolitan Community Church was founded in Los Angeles in 1966 by Rev. Troy Perry, formerly an ordained Pentecostal minister and author of The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. In six years, Metropolitan boasted more than thirty-nine chartered congregations and forty-three missions and study groups, with a combined membership exceeding seventeen thousand. In ten years, it grew to sixty-seven thousand, in well over a hundred locations across the world.

Their doctrinal statement was solidly evangelical. They believe in the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and salvation by grace. They promote evangelistic outreach. They perform evangelical weddings, but with one twist—most couples married are of the same sex.

Tony Jones who is an author and church leader in the Emergent Church Movement says that he believes "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer" individuals can and should live out their sexuality in—and blessed by—the Christian Church.

Like all other sinners, people involved in homosexuality try to justify their sin. So homosexual churches have a homosexual theology in an attempt to biblically defend their homosexual lifestyle. Instead of confessing it as sin and agreeing with God they seek to justify their sin.

What does the Bible teach about same sex marriage?

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 ESV

Each man is to have a wife, and each woman is to have a husband. A woman can't have a wife, and a man can't have a husband. Same sex marriage is an oxymoron. If it is same sex it cannot be marriage. Marriage is the joining of opposite sexes. From the biblical perspective marriage is only between a man and a woman. Only two people of the opposite sex can fulfill the procreative purpose of marriage.

Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network writes, "It's certainly true that God designed our bodies with heterosexuality in mind; that's how new human beings come into the world. I don't think anyone can deny that heterosexual sex is the way our bodies were built to function. But does that mean that using our bodies in any other way is sinful?" It does if the Bible says that using our bodies in "an other" way is sinful, and it does.

Believers, we cannot walk in the light if we aren't confessing our sins. Let's compare verses 6-7 and verses 8-9. One thing that I hope you can see from these parallels is that denying our sin is part of what it means to walk in darkness, and confessing our sin is part of what it means to walk in the light.

Continue the Series

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