1 John 1:8-10 - We are all sinners
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If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1: 8.
An applicant presented excellent credentials for entry to the theological college. During his admission interview, he convinced the lecturers that he was a first-class student and would apply himself eagerly to his theological studies. Indeed, during the first semester at college, he appeared diligent and engaged. However, when time came to mark his first semester examination papers, the student had performed very badly. The academic dean enquired why the grades were so poor when his school results were so good. “Ah, well!”, the student replied. “The previous results were not my brain. The teacher wrote the examination answers on the black board and I just copied them!”
This student had managed to deceive himself that because he had fraudulently obtained good school results on paper, he would be able to perform well in the theological college. Reality showed otherwise. In these verses, John shows that the claims of the false teachers in the church to be sinless are fraudulent and are nothing less than an exercise in self-deception. As we read yesterday, the reality of their lives walked “in the darkness” (v.6) proved otherwise.
The claim to have no sin (v.8) is the second of the false claims made by those who oppose the truth within the church. However, the warning is not only for them. Note how John personalises the message, “If we say we have no sin.” There is always the danger that we are fooling ourselves and justifying our sin instead of allowing the truth of God’s word to convict us and lead us to repentance. This calls for careful self-examination (Ps 51:3-4).
The alternative to self-deception is the confession of our sin (v.9). Confession arises from integrity in our walk with God. In Psalm 51:5 David acknowledges, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” With David, we need to acknowledge the sinfulness of our natures as well as the sins that we have committed.
We can have confidence that when we confess our sins, God’s nature is such that he will surely forgive us and cleanse us from all that is contrary to his righteousness (our unrighteousness). The efficacy of the confession does not lie in the strength of the words spoken by the sinner but in the righteousness of the God who is faithful to his covenant promise to provide a way of forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of his Son (1 John 1:7).
Confession, cleansing, and forgiveness are the way that we continue to walk in fellowship with God and with one another. Calvin writes, “God indeed forgives freely, but in such a way that the faculty of mercy does not become an enticement to sin” (p. 168). We are called on to be diligent about maintaining fellowship with God and with one another by repentance and not to allow God’s mercy towards us to act as an excuse for further sin.
The third claim of the false teachers was that they “have not sinned” (v.10), thereby granting to themselves that declaration of sinless perfection that belongs to God alone. John is quick to assure them and us, that anyone who claims such things for themselves does so in opposition to the word of God and therefore commits the sin of making God a liar. Their rejection of God’s word proves that they do not live in fellowship with him.
Let us today examine ourselves and confess our sins to him who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51: 2
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is a growing Convocation of Anglican churches in England committed to church planting. Their vision is to have 25 congregations by 2025 and 250 congregations by 2050. Pray for the planned church plant in the north part of Manchester (in the Borough of Bury): for gospel partners, for prayer support, for the church planter, Rev'd Ben Williamson.
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