“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 KJV)
Many people think this verse is saying that we must continually ask for forgiveness of sins we commit after our moment of belief and after receiving the free gift of Salvation through Christ, or else they will lose Salvation. But is this true? The answer is an emphatic, no.
It is important to understand that the context of John’s letter is to thwart a heresy that false teachers were trying to get true believers to accept. This heresy is called Gnosticism. This is the sin that John is referring too in his letter. Those believing this heresy.
Gnosticism in incompatible with Biblical Christianity because Gnostics do not believe that a person can be born again through Christ. They deny that we are saved because Christ died in our place and took on the punishment for our sins but instead rely on extra Biblical ‘secret knowledge’ they say has been imparted to them as if they are special somehow. This was a big heresy in the early church and is being shown as false.
The Gnostics teachings were causing fear in some of the believers and had them questioning their faith on Christ alone for Salvation. The Gnostics claim was that Jesus did not really come in the flesh. John puts an end to that argument from the get go stating very clearly Jesus was real and did come in the flesh! John says WE HAVE SEEN WITH OUR EYES and TOUCHED WITH OUR HANDS. He puts an end to the belief of the Gnostics that Jesus was not here in the flesh.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3 KJV)
John then goes on to keep destroying the beliefs of the Gnostics and to eradicate the fear it brought to believers of Christ stating he is writing this for the believer’s so that their JOY MAY BE FULL. John seeks to restore their full belief and assurance in Christ alone for their Salvation.
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:4-7 KJV)
Remember that John wrote his letters to believers to thwart the teachings of the heresy of Gnostics that were causing confusion and bringing fear and condemnation into the Grace of God. He is addressing people who are already eternally saved through earlier belief on Christ. Their sins have already been PAID IN FULL by Christ on the cross.
The key to understanding this passage of Scripture is in the understanding what it means to walk in the light and walk in the darkness. John is giving a comparison here to be sure that the one reading he letter is confident that they are truly saved. He uses the contrast of dark verse light to achieve this.
+ Walking In The Light
Jesus is the ‘light of the world’ (John 8:12) and so walking in the light is simply believing on Christ as your Savior. A person is walking in the light from the very moment they became born again.
+ Walking In Darkness
This is the state of every person who has not yet accepted the free gift of Salvation through Christ. They walk in darkness because they have not come to the knowledge of the TRUTH in Christ. The Holy Spirit is not dwelling in them nor guiding them.
The Gnostics were saying they were saved people, yet they were walking in darkness because they did not believe Jesus came in the flesh and died for sins. They said they were saved but the Holy Spirit was not even indwelling them. This is still going on today! False religions claiming they are saved people as members, but they are walking in darkness. Such as Scientology for just one example.
This is why the teaching of going in and out of Salvation is completely wrong. A person is saved by the Grace filled free gift of God through Christ’s atonement for sin or they are living and believing they require good works and never sinning. It cannot be both! In John 3, Jesus is very clear and simple about how a person is forgiven of their sins and saved for all eternity and the word ‘good works’ nor ‘sin’ is not mentioned.
“He that BELIEVETH ON HIM is not condemned: but he that BELIEVETH NOT is condemned ALREADY, because he hath not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18 KJV)
Apostle Paul also acknowledges this truth stating,
“For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the GIFT OF GOD: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
Many teach that they must CONFESS their sins after Salvation or they will not be forgiven. But they read the word ‘CONFESS’ in Scriptures as if it means to ‘ASK FOR FORGIVENESS’ but that is not how the Bible defines the word ‘CONFESS’. A believer’s sins were COMPLETELY forgiven and the Holy Spirit comes and indwells the person from the very moment of belief as we see in Ephesians where we read,
“In whom ye also trusted, AFTER that YE HEARD the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that YE BELIEVED, YE WERE SEALED with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the EARNEST (don: means guaranteed down payment) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14 KJV)
Again here we see the word BELIEVE as the way to be saved just as in John 3 when Jesus Himself stated so. Peter says the same things to the Jews when he told them that they crucified Christ and that HE was really the Lord God. It ‘pricked’ them because once they realized this as truth, some were very sorry and fearful. Peter says to them,
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent (Added for Greek meaning: change your mind), and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Act 2:36-39 KJV)
We need to use the correct Biblical definition for the word ‘confess’. The Greek for the word ‘confess’ in the New Testament is ‘homologeō’ and has a meaning of ‘to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent’. To confess is to agree with God that you did sin. We know all our sins were already forgiven, even our future sins because all sins are future to the cross. When we confess, we basically say to God, ‘God.. I blew it again and sinned. Please help me stop this by the Holy Spirit.’ Do you think that is a prayer that God will honor? Yes, He will. The process of Sanctification takes time. In fact, a lifetime! Yet we are still saved by the grace of God through our BELIEF on Christ alone.
Look how Paul uses the word ‘confess’ in Romans 10 KJV where we read,
“That if thou shalt CONFESS (Added for meaning in Greek clarity: agree with God) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man BELIEVETH unto righteousness; and with the mouth CONFESSION (Added for meaning in Greek clarity: agree with God) is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever BELIEVETH on him shall not be ashamed.”
We also need to use the correct Biblical meaning for the word ‘repent’ which means ‘ change your mind’ in the Greek. It is not Biblically defined as the modern dictionary states. It does not mean ‘turn from your sin’ nor ‘to be pentient’. Yes, we should turn from our sins. The Holy Spirit will convict us to. The reading of the Word of God for the renewing of our mind will also. Our newly created Spirit wars with our flesh for us to turn from our sins. Perfectly? Not yet. it is a real struggle! (Romans 7) However, we cannot have sinless perfection until our bodily resurrection when the sin nature will no longer exist within us. However, the definition of the word ‘repent’ in the Bible is not ‘turn from your sin’. By changing our mind about sins we should be turning from sin but the repenting is not the turning from sin. The turning from sin is a result of repenting; that is changing of mind. And Apostle Paul tells us to renew our mind by the Word of God.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV)