Confessing Our Sin (1 John 1:8-9)

Sermon Manuscript . . .

Confessing our Sin

I John 1:8-9



Bridges:  We tend to drag up our old sins, that we tend to live under a vague sense of guilt . . . we are not nearly as vigorous in appropriating God’s forgiveness as He is in extending it.  Consequently, instead of living in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness through Christ, we tend to live under an overcast sky of guilt most of the time.

Is that you this morning? Do you live in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness, or under an overcast of guilt?  There is hope found in the Scripture in I John.  John writes in 1:6 to 2:2 to declare what true fellowship looks like.  Three false claims of the gnostic teachers are put forth.  John states the error being propagated, and then provides its biblical solution for true fellowship with God.

Each false claim is led by the statement, “if we say”:

Verse 6, “if we say we have fellowship

Verse 8, “if we say we have no sin

Verse 10, “if we say we have not sinned

Then John will denounce each false claim as a lie.

Verse 6, “yet walk in darkness we lie

Verse 8, “we deceive ourselves

Verse 10, “make Him a liar and His Word is not in us

Then John will affirm a true statement.

Verse 7, “but if we walk in the light

Verse 9, “if we confess our sins

Verse 1, “but if anyone does sin

The three false claims John deals with are in relation to sin.

Verse 6, “if we walk in the darkness” (sin)

Verse 8, “if we say we have no sin

Verse 10, “if we say we have not sinned

They have misunderstood the nature of God, who is light, and exchanged obedience to God for a lifestyle that excuses sins, or has denied sin altogether.  In each false claim, the solution is made possible through forgiveness in the death of God’s Son.

Verse 1:7, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin

Verse 1:9, “forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Verse 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins

The fundamental question is this–is your lifestyle consistent with the declaration that God is light?  The message is, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  Consequently we cannot have fellowship with God and walk in darkness.  Light is a metaphor for life/truth/purity.  Ephesians 5:8 to 9,  “formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”  Righteousness and truth must be evident for those claiming to have fellowship with God.

We are examining three important truths on what true fellowship with God looks like.

1  True fellowship with God–walking in the Light

A.  The Heresy Denounced (walk in darkness)

B.  The Truth Declared (walk in light)

C.  The Results Described (fellowship/cleansing)

To claim fellowship with God and walk in darkness is insanity.  It is only those who walk in the light who have true fellowship with God–only those who pursue holiness.

2  True fellowship with God–confessing our sin

  1.  Heresy Denounced:  verse 8, “we have no sin.”

Let me explain the heresy that was being spewed forth from these false teachers.  “Sin” in verse 8 is singular.  It refers to the inherited sin principle.  These false teachers were claiming that no matter how sinful their outward behavior, there was no sin in their nature.  They were sinless.  Or as one told me a couple weeks ago, “I am a nice guy.”  Other scholars say, “to have no sin” means “to have no guilt.”  It would not so much be a denial of sin itself, but to have no responsibility for it–not guilty of sin.

John was contending with philosophical dualism that denied the reality of sin.  Those who held to this elitist philosophy argued the spiritual was good, and the physical was always bad.  They created an artificial dichotomy between the spiritual realm and the physical world–contending that spiritual realities were all that mattered, and that what was done in the flesh (including sin) was a non-issue.

Today, some charismatic believers teach a second work of grace after salvation that eradicates the sin nature–they can live without sinning.  This appears to be genuine.  Sometimes called full surrender, a second blessing, a release of the Spirit as a means by which sin can be dealt with once and for all.  Such teaching is a snare to some sincere, spiritually-minded Christians, who long to be more like Christ, and who would love to be lifted beyond sin and temptation.

However, Scripture does not teach this.  John states, “If we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves”—we are self-deceived.  This is a clear denial of Scripture that declares there is none righteous, and all have sinned (Romans 3:10 through 23).  Not only are they deceived, but the “truth is not in us.”  Truth is the message that God is light.  Those who deny the sin principle have never received God’s truth.

It is said Spurgeon once met a man who claimed to be “without sin.”  Intrigued, the preacher invited him home to dinner.  After hearing the claims, he picked up his glass of water and threw it in the man’s face.  The visitor was highly indignant, and expressed himself forcefully to the preacher about his lack of courtesy–to which Spurgeon replied, “Ah, you see, the old man within you is not dead.  He had simply fainted and could be revived with a glass of water!”

MacArthur says:  “Remove the reality of sin, and you take away the possibility of repentance, abolish the doctrine of human depravity and you void the divine plan of salvation.  Erase the notion of personal guilt and you eliminate the need for a Savior.  Obliterate the human conscience, and you will raise an immoral and unredeemable generation.”

We live in a nation of victims.  A man who was shot and paralyzed while committing a burglary in New York recovered damages from the store owner who shot him.  His attorney told a jury the man was first of all a victim of society, driven to crime by economic disadvantages.  Now, the lawyer said, he is a victim of the insensitivity of the man who shot him.  Because of that man’s callous disregard to the thief’s plight as a victim, the poor criminal will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  The jury agreed—the store owner paid a large settlement.

A San Francisco man murdered a supervisor and Mayor George Moscone because of consuming too much junk food–especially Hostess Twinkies.  He claimed it made him act irrationally.  Thus the famous “Twinkie defense” was born.  A lenient jury bought the line, and produced a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder.  They ruled that the junk food resulted in “diminished mental capacity,” which mitigated the killer’s guilt.

Gang members in Los Angeles beat truck driver Reginald Denny almost to death before TV cameras.  A jury acquitted them of all but the most minor charges, deciding that they were caught up in the mayhem of the moment, and not responsible for their actions.  It is entirely possible today in America to commit the most notorious crimes, and get off scot-free, simply by blaming some imaginative mental or emotional disorder that makes you not responsible for your actions.

If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”  (1 John 1:8), which leads to . . .

B  Truth Declared:  I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.”  If we confess our sins before God, He will indeed “forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Confession of sin is a means of moving to the light.  It is to confess our sinful thoughts, words, actions and attitude contrary to God’s revealed will.  It is to admit our guilt and agree with God that we sinned against Him.  Confession must be accompanied by repentance.  The word “confess” (homologeo) means to say the same thing.  Believers are those who confess their sins, agreeing with God about their sin—to acknowledge its reality, and affirm that it is a transgression of His law and a violation of His will.

Perhaps the most popular, but erroneous, view of confession is that believers are forgiven of only those sins they confess.  If that were correct, it would mean that unconfessed sins remain with believers until the judgment seat of Christ, at which time they will have to give an account for those iniquities.  But such is simply not the case.  No one will enter heaven with a list of unconfessed sins still hanging over his head (see 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 22:15), because the finished work of Jesus Christ completely covers all of the sins of those who believe, including those that remain unconfessed.

As Elliff said, “The blood of Jesus unfailingly cleanses the believer from his sin at all times.  There could be no sin that the blood does not cover, confessed or not confessed.  Though our sins were taken care of in the cross of Christ, and by His blood being spilled for us, it is applied immediately in time to every sin we commit, the nano-second we commit it.”

But Scott, I John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Then those who walk in the light have every single sin ever committed, which would defile you, and make you unfit for fellowship with God, cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  Why now must I confess my sin to God?  It is important to recognize that biblical forgiveness runs along two trajectories.

Sam Storms said, “The Bible teaches that all sin, past, present, and future, is forgiven through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Our eternal destiny is sealed and set at the moment of justifying faith.  Our depth of intimacy, fellowship and joy is certainly affected adversely when we fail to confess and repent of daily sin.  But our eternal destiny has already and forever been determined.  We must recognize the distinction between the eternal forgiveness of the guilt of sin that is ours the moment we embrace Jesus in faith, and that temporal forgiveness of sin we receive on a daily basis that enables us to experience the happiness of intimacy with the Father (when we confess our sin).  Heresy denounced, truth declared, and now

C.  Results Described:  He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins.”

Forgive (aphiemi) means to send away, to let go, to dismiss, to no longer hold something against someone.  God absolves us from the punishment we deserve.  In the Old Testament, the verb for “forgiveness” means to lift, to carry, and portrays sin being carried from the sinner.  Forgiveness is an act of God, releasing the sinner from judgment, and freeing you from the penalty of sin.  He forgives sin based on the work of Christ on the cross.  When God forgives our sin, it means that He no longer holds your sins against you.  He cancels your debt.

Jerry Bridges says, “Scripture declares our sin completely removed, put behind God’s back, blotted out, remembered no more, hurled into the depths of the sea.”

Thomas Adams, “Sins are so remitted, as if they had never been committed.”

John then calls on two attributes of God to strengthen his argument.  John gives two assurances about God’s character that provide the basis of forgiveness.  In forgiving, God is faithful.  It could mean God is faithful to His unchanging character.  More likely, when faithful is used in Scripture to describe the character of God, it is usually connected to His covenant promises.  Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  And Heb 11:11, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”  He is faithful to His word and His promises.  The promise of the New Covenant, stated in Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

We begin to understand why God is said to be faithful in forgiving our sins.  He is faithful to His promise.  God is faithful to His Word.  When God promises to forgive your sins when you confess them, you can trust Him to do so.  He who promises to forgive your sin is faithful to do so.

In the words of R.C. Sproul, “What do you do with the person who says, ‘I’ve asked God to forgive me about this, but I still feel guilty?’  I hear that statement over and over again.  I usually say to these people, ‘If you still feel guilty, then pray to God again.  But this time, don’t ask Him to forgive you for the sin that is haunting you.  Rather, ask Him to forgive you for insulting His integrity by refusing to accept His forgiveness.’  Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you?  When God promises to forgive His people when they repent, He is not playing games.  If He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you.  And if God forgives you, you are forgiven.”

Jackman says, “But equally, God is ‘righteous’.  We must not water this down into meaning ‘kind’ or ‘merciful’.  Rather, it expresses his inflexible righteousness.  But this too guarantees our forgiveness.  God’s justice ensures that He will give to each his due.  Were it not for the sacrificial death of Christ, we would tremble at that thought, for the justice of God would rightly condemn us for our sin and cast us into outer darkness.  We have a Savior who has turned away God’s wrath, who has died in our place, and whose blood goes on cleansing us from sin.

“Having lived the perfect life that we have failed to live, He died the death that we deserve to die.  The fact that the penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus means that God will not demand a second payment.  In Christ, the work is accomplished, once and for all, and we are forgiven.  The justice of God requires Him to forgive, because the debt has been met.  What we deserve is God’s judgment, but this is just what He does not give us.  Instead, we receive what we do not deserve and that in his mercy and pardoning grace.”

These truths in the hymn by Charles Bancroft:

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free.

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

Then the text says, “To cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  He removes the defilement which the sin produced.  It also conveys the removal of any blockage to true fellowship with God through forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1-5, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!  When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the guilt of my sin.”

About Scott Ardavanis

Scott is the teaching pastor of Grace Church of the Valley in Kingsburg, CA. He is a long-time friend of each of the FBC elders.