Grace solution for Sin; 1 John 1:8-10
John wrote this epistle to churches in Ephesus and the surrounding area of Asia-Minor in order to teach them how to maintain their fellowship with God. They were suffering a problem at that time in the early church with teachers who were coming out of the churches, believers who have got caught up with the ideas and concepts that were being taught that had their roots in the secular philosophies of Platonism, neo-Platonism and some of the early ideas that later came together as Gnosticism.
There are two or three parts to the introduction. John lays the foundation for the introduction in the first four verses and in the second section from 1:5 to 2:2 he is dealing with the problem of sin, how sin interrupts the believer's fellowship, and what the divine solution is. He starts off in verse 5 with the character of God. If we are going to understand anything about fellowship, to understand what it is to have an ongoing relationship with God as part of our spiritual life, and if we are going to understand what happens when we sin, then the starting point is the character of God. He pays down this principle that "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." This is specifically looking at His righteousness, His justice and His love. It is the character of God that results in the illumination of man. The Word of God reveals who God is and reveals His standards and His character to us, reveals the fact that man is a sinner and has fallen short of the character of God and that God has provided a perfect solution to man's problem of having fallen short of His character.
The reason for emphasising that is because more often that not 99.9 per cent of the time when we hear somebody exegete or teach 1st John 1 they will instantly shift when they get to verses 6 and 7 where it talks about walking in the life and teach that that is the believer walking consistent with God's Word, and they totally divorce that from the character of God. But it is the Word of God that reveals the character of God. It is the Word of God that reveals who God is, what His character is, and what His norms and standards are. So to walk consistent with the Scripture is to walk consistent with God's character. You can't separate the two. The other problem is that a lot pf people want to take this as talking about salvation, and it is not; it is talking about walking in the light of what God has revealed about Himself, His norms and standards, His absolutes, and we have to walk consistent with His character or we cannot have fellowship with Him. God cannot have fellowship with a creature that falls short of His righteousness. We have to make a distinction between our eternal relationship and our temporal fellowship.
The Gnostic idea was that whatever was done in the body was sinful anyway so why exercise any kind of moral restraint on physical activity. It was just pure antinomianism, licentiousness. They could give vent to every lust pattern in their sin nature and it wouldn't matter because the material body has nothing to do with the spiritual body. Part of this early Gnostic type of thinking was that you could make this kind of dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical. So John is going to express five different possibilities, suppositions, called hypothetical conditions in the Greek, to express these different statements that can be made. It can really be boiled down to two basic scenarios. In verses 6 and 7 is the person who denies that sin affects his relationship with God at all. There are many believers who teach that today because, they say, as Christ died on the cross for our sins and our sins are paid for it really doesn't matter what you do. So verses 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 start with an "if" clause: "If we say."
Then there is another category: those who deny sin. They are in self-deception and they are into a form of perfectionism. This is expressed two different ways, in verse 8 and again in verse 10.
1 John 1:8 NASB "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." In this verse we have the third person plural, present active indicative of echo [e)xw], to have, to possess. With the negative it would be: "If I claim that I have no sin"—no sin at all, it is in the singular, no individual sin. The contrast here is between the person who claims to not have sin in v. 8 and the person who admits sins [pl.] in verse 9. If the sin in v. 8 was just sin nature then that is what v. 9 would have to relate to—just being a sinner, having a sin nature. But verse 8 is expressing an extreme position of a person who says he doesn't have one single sin in my life. John says such a person is in self-deception and is ignorant of doctrine.
But in contrast to the person who says he doesn't have a single sin in his life is the believer who is advancing. This is parallel to the one who walks in the light. 1 John 1:9 NASB "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "If we confess" is a 3rd class condition, maybe we will and maybe we won't. If we don't we stay out of fellowship, we continue to walk in darkness, and continue to regress in our spiritual life. But the solution to post-salvation sin is confession. Post-salvation sin breaks our fellowship with God. Any sin violates the character of God. Fellowship is broken and the ministry of God the Holy Spirit squelched. We have to recover the fellowship with God and have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit restored so that we can advance spiritually. So the solution is stated there: "If we confess our sins," plural.
The word translated "confess" is the Greek word homologeo [o(mologew]. homo means the same; logeo is from the verb to say or to speak. Someone will come along and say, well that means to say the same thing. That is what is called an etymological fallacy. Word definition is determined by word usage, and word usage of homologeo doesn't mean to say the same thing as, it means to confess or acknowledge, to admit them, run them off in a list; identify them to God. He is not saying confess the fact that you are a sinner, that you have a sin nature, but to list them. It we admit or acknowledge our sins He is faithful. This is the apodosis, the necessary result: "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The first part of this emphasises His character. He is always going to do the same thing every time we confess our sins. This is related to His immutability and His righteousness. He cleanses us "from all unrighteousness." He cleanses us. The Greek word is katharizo [kaqarizw] and it indicates that he wipes the slate clean and we are purified from all unrighteousness—not just the sins we confess, but all of the ones we didn't remember, the ones we didn't know were sins, the ones we didn't confess—so that we are restored to fellowship, we are walking by the Spirit, we are walking in the light again.
1 John 1:10 NASB "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." There we have an intensive perfect verb indicating I am not now in the present a sinner at all. The intensive perfect indicates the results of a past action, and that past action would be the person who claims that because he is saved the sin nature is somehow eradicated and he no longer sins. So John says that if we say that we have not sinned we are calling God a liar and His Word is not in us. In other words, there is no doctrinal understanding of sin in us.
Then he comes to chapter two and he is going to give us the basis of what happens in heaven on the other side of confession. The confession is on our side but what happens in the heavenly realm is related to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ and His advocacy for us.