Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider further the conditions of the divine fellowship.
In 1:8 John says, “If we say that we do not have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” To say that we do not have sin is to say that we do not have indwelling sin (Rom. 7:17) within our nature. This is what the Gnostic heresy teaches. The apostle is inoculating the believers against this false teaching. This section, 1:7—2:2, deals with the believers’ sinning after regeneration, which interrupts their fellowship with God. If after regeneration the believers do not have sin in their nature, how could they sin in their conduct? Even though they sin only occasionally, not habitually, their sinning is an adequate proof that they still have sin working within them. Otherwise, there would be no interruption to their fellowship with God. The apostle’s teaching here also condemns today’s teaching of perfectionism, that a state of freedom from sin is attainable or has been attained in the earthly life, and it annuls today’s wrong teaching of the eradication of the sinful nature, which, by misinterpreting the word in 3:9 and 5:18, says that regenerated persons cannot sin because their sinful nature has been totally eradicated.
The Greek words rendered “we are deceiving ourselves” can also be translated “we are leading ourselves astray.” To say that we do not have sin, because we have been regenerated, is self-deceiving. This denies the actual fact of our experience and causes us to lead ourselves astray.
Truth in verse 8 denotes the revealed reality of God, the real facts, conveyed in the gospel, such as the reality of God and all the divine things, which are all Christ (John 1:14, 17; 14:6); the reality of Christ and all the spiritual things, which are all the Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 5:6), and the reality of man’s condition (John 16:8-11). Here it denotes especially our sinful condition after regeneration under the enlightenment of the divine light in our fellowship with God. If we say we do not have sin after being regenerated, such a reality, the truth, does not remain in us; that is, we deny our true post-regeneration condition.
In verse 9 John goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous that He may forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession here denotes the confession of our sins, our failures, after regeneration, not the confession of our sins before regeneration.
God is faithful in His word (v. 10) and righteous in the blood of Jesus His Son (v. 7). His word is the word of the truth of His gospel (Eph. 1:13), which tells us that He will forgive us our sins because of Christ (Acts 10:43), and the blood of Christ has fulfilled His righteous requirements that He may forgive us our sins (Matt. 26:28). If we confess our sins, He, according to His word and based upon the redemption through the blood of Jesus, forgives us, because He must be faithful in His word and righteous in the blood of Jesus. Otherwise, He would be unfaithful and unrighteous. Our confession is needed for His forgiveness. Such forgiveness of God for the restoration of our fellowship with Him is conditional and depends on our confession.
In verse 9 John speaks of both forgiveness and cleansing. For God to forgive us is for Him to release us from the offense of our sins. For Him to cleanse us is for Him to wash us from the stain of our unrighteousness.
“Unrighteousness” and “sins” are synonyms. All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17). Both unrighteousness and sins refer to our wrongdoings. Sins indicate the offense of our wrongdoings against God and men; unrighteousness indicates the stain of our wrongdoings that we are not right either with God or with men. The offense needs God’s forgiveness, and the stain requires His cleansing. Both God’s forgiveness and His cleansing are needed for the restoration of our fellowship with Him that has been broken so that we may enjoy Him in uninterrupted fellowship with a good conscience void of offense (1 Tim. 1:5; Acts 24:16).
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