“IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS”
First John 1.9
1. Turn to First John chapter 1. When you find that passage I would like you to stand and read along silently while I read aloud:
1 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;
2 (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;)
3 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.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 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.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 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.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
2. What have we just read? What is the purpose of the writer who was used by the Holy Spirit of God to pen this inspired letter? First John 5.13 at least partly summarizes the apostle John’s thoughts: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
3. Was First John written to get lost folks saved? Was First John written to provide assurance of salvation and confidence to those who were already genuine believers? Opinions vary somewhat.
4. Thorough students of First John seem persuaded that this letter may have been written to combat a rising heresy that threatened Christianity at the end of the first century. The simple truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh was denied by some.
5. Thus, my own opinion is that First John was written for several reasons: First, to strengthen with sound doctrine the faith of those professing believers who were genuinely converted. As well, to clarify the perilous state of those who professed to be Christians but who held to certain heretical teachings. There are some things you just cannot believe and be a Christian.
6. These things said, let us quickly move through each verse until we arrive at our text for today:
Verse 1: “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.” The apostle John is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ here, to His eternity. And this One who is “from the beginning,” who is “the Word of life,” was heard, was seen, was carefully scrutinized, and even physically touched and felt, by John and his fellow apostles. Notice, it is the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ that is stressed here; that He had a physical body that could be seen and touched.
Verse 2: “(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;)” This verse establishes John’s credentials as a witness of the life of the One Who is eternal life and Who came from the Father.
Verse 3: “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.” In this verse John emphasizes that he is only repeating what he had personally seen and heard. His purpose? So that his readers would have fellowship with him and other Christians, and that such fellowship is with both the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Since the word “fellowship” (koinwnia) has to do with sharing and joint participation, John is implying to his readers that as he eyed and physically handled the Lord Jesus Christ, he wanted them to spiritually eye and handle the Lord Jesus Christ so that they could join him in the Christian life, being partakers of the divine nature of the Father and His Son.
Verse 4: “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Not happiness, but joy. Joy considers and responds to realities far beyond what makes a person happy. Happiness depends upon what is happening. Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit and considers not only a person’s experiences, but also that person’s anticipations of God fulfilling His promises.
Verse 5: “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.” In The Defender’s Study Bible, Henry Morris observes that when God created the time/space/energy universe He did not create light. Why not? Because God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” According to Isaiah 45.7, God created the darkness. Of course, light is a metaphor for holiness. God is holy and in Him is not the slightest taint of sin or impurity of any kind.
Verse 6: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Are you a Christian? Do you claim to fellowship with God, to be a partaker of His divine nature? If you walk in darkness while making those claims you are a liar, and do not the truth. Thus, John insists that there be a correlation between every Christian’s profession and every Christian’s practice.
Verse 7: “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.” If God is light and the Christian is a child of God, it is only reasonable to expect him to live his life in the light. Since every Christian does likewise, we will have that lifestyle in common with each other. “. . . and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” This is the ongoing and continual benefit to the believer of Christ’s shed blood.
Verse 8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But let no one claim to be without sin this side of heaven. Anyone who claims to be without sin has not yet recognized the depth of his own depravity and is not, himself, a Christian.
Verse 9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What two things does every sinner need? If you are lost you need forgiveness and cleansing. God is faithful and just to provide both forgiveness and cleansing . . . to those who confess our sins.
Verse 10: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” If verse 8 speaks to the issue of a man’s sinful nature, this verse speaks to the issue of a man’s sinful deeds. Deny what the Bible says about your sinful nature and your sinful deeds if you want to, but you will be neither forgiven nor cleansed so long as you deny the truthfulness of God. As a matter of fact, only Christians really and truly admit to sinfulness. The lost either deny that their nature is sinful beyond repair or deny that the wickedness of their sinful deeds cries out for God’s just punishment for those sins.
7. Look back to First John 1.9, my text for this morning, and let me make two observations: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1A. First, OBSERVE THAT THIS VERSE IS A CONDITIONAL STATEMENT
1B. There are different kinds, or classes, of conditional statements. The verse before us is a third class conditional statement. “Third class condition is the probable future condition. . . It expresses that which is not really taking place but which probably will take place in the future.”
2B. This means that John is not presuming that his readers are confessing their sins. But he does express the idea that they probably will confess their sins, and that those who do confess their sins are those who God faithfully and justly forgives and cleanses.
3B. But keep in mind that “. . . confession of sin is not the cause or condition of pardon, nor of the manifestation of it, but is descriptive of the person, and points him out, to whom God will and does make known his forgiving love.”
4B. To state this another way, God does not forgive and cleanse sinners because they confess their sins, as though confession is an initial act that God responds to. Not at all. These are concurrent events. They happen at the same time, and the one does not cause the others to occur.
2A. Next, CONSIDER THIS WORD “CONFESS”
1B. This is one of those words in the New Testament that confuses people because of the influence of Roman Catholic error with certain Bible words. One word is the word “repent,” which causes many to think of penance, even though the Greek word it translates, metanoia, suggests no such thing.
2B. Another is the word in our text “confess.”
1C. The English word “confess” translates the Greek verb omologew. A compound word taken from a word that means “the same” and a word that means “to say or to speak,” this word does not refer to reciting your sins one at a time to a priest, or to anyone else for that matter.
2C. The word has to do with sharing a common view about something with someone, being of common mind with someone about something, to concede that something is factual and true, or to openly acknowledge something.
3B. Listen to what that venerable Baptist theologian, John Gill, writes about the confessing that this verse refers to: “a man that truly confesses his sin is one that the Spirit of God has convinced of it, and has shown him its exceeding sinfulness, and filled him with a godly sorrow for it, and given him repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of; and who, under such a sight and sense of sin, and concern for it, comes and acknowledges it before the Lord, humbly imploring, for Christ’s sake, his pardoning grace and mercy; and such obtain it.”
1. Most Christians and commentaries view First John 1.9 as speaking to Christians. I have no argument with that, though I do not think our text should be limited as having valuable application only to Christians.
2. For a sinner to become a Christian there must be such a change of mind take place that he agrees with God’s appraisal and estimation of his sin. Whatever God says about his wicked nature, he must acknowledge that God’s declarations are true. Whatever God pronounces as just punishment for his offenses, he must not argue or defend himself in any way. After all, God is true and men are liars.
3. To confess means you stop lying about being innocent and admit to what God says about you and your sins. In a sense, to confess your sins, as John uses the word in this verse, means that you side with God against yourself. You have come to His position on the issue of sins. It does not mean that you are required to list your sins or recite your sins to anyone in order to obtain forgiveness.
4. Let me ask in case someone should think, Does this verse diminish the role of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior? Not at all. Jesus Christ is the only Savior of sinful men’s souls, the only mediator between God and men, First Timothy 2.5. He is the exclusive access to the Father. Let us ever exalt the Savior.
5. When you do confess your sins, which is to say when you agree with God’s estimation of your sins and their just punishment, it will be when you will come to Christ as your only hope of salvation from those sins. God then will forgive you and cleanse you for Jesus’ sake.
6. Brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon.
1. Let me speak very pointedly to those of you today who sit under Gospel preaching regularly, but for some reason you are not a Christian. Perhaps there was a time when you thought you once came very close to becoming a Christian, but you never have been converted in the Biblical sense of the word.
2. Maybe you once felt really and truly troubled about your sins. You felt really bad about how sinful you were and became terrified at the prospect of dying and going to Hell, and you just knew you needed to come to Christ. But you did not come to Christ. That was my experience when I was seven years old, even though our family only rarely attended church.
3. Or maybe you looked back on your life (however long you have lived) and you were filled with regret and remorse at so many missed opportunities, at so many foolish mistakes, for so many tragic and harmful sins, or for wronging so many friends and loved ones. But, still, you did not come to Christ.
4. There are many reasons why sinners do not come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. But all the reasons and excuses for refusing to obey the Gospel really boil down to a single issue. In John 3.19-20 we find these words: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
5. “‘Darkness’ is common in John as a metaphor for the state of sinners.” So you see, sinners do not come to Christ because they prefer their unsaved state to the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God that He provides.
6. You did not come to Christ when you were most troubled by your sins, when you were most alarmed by the danger of eternal Hellfire, and when you were most disgusted with yourself, because you still preferred what you are and what you have to being a Christian. You prefer sinning to Jesus Christ.
7. Perhaps I am a bit blunt for your sensibilities, but that is why you are not a Christian. However you feel about your life, you still prefer the experiences you have to the promises made in the Bible about those who convert to Jesus Christ.
8. Two extended comments and we are finished:
1A. First, YOUR PROBLEM AS A SINNER IS THAT YOU ARE DOUBLE-MINDED
1B. James 1.8 declares, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” This verse literally declares that a two-souled man is unstable in all his ways, but it points out two things worth noting:
1C. First, the fact that there are two souls spoken of when we know a person actually only has one soul. But what is meant here is that a guy flip flops. John Bunyan referred to such a fellow as “Mr. Facing-both-ways.” You want to become a Christian, but you don’t want to become a Christian. It seems as though something is holding you back. That really is you, is it not?
2C. Another item worth noting: Though the Greek text uses a word that means “two souls,” the translators translated the word into the phrase “double minded.” Why did they do that? They did that because your soul is your mind.
2B. Turn to Psalm 51.17 and read with me: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
1C. This verse is an example of Hebrew parallelism in poetry. The first statement actually means exactly what the second statement means. Thus, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” means just what “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” means.
2C. With this in mind, note that in the first statement of Psalm 51.17 we find David referring to a broken spirit, while in the second statement he refers to a broken and contrite heart. My friends, David understood that the terms “spirit” and “heart” are actually different ways of referring to the same thing.
3B. Now turn to Genesis 6.5: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
1C. This passage refers to a time before the great Flood, but man has not changed between then and now. Notice that Moses attributed man’s imagination and wicked thoughts to . . . his heart.
2C. But is not the mind the place where thinking occurs? Yes, it is. In the Bible, the terms “mind” and “heart” are almost always references to the same faculty of the intellect.
4B. Finally, turn to Matthew 22.37: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
1C. I do not have time to prove this, but the words of the Lord Jesus Christ do not indicate that there are three different things with which you should love the Lord your God. The three terms are joined together, heart, soul and mind, for emphasis, not because they are separate faculties.
2C. The Lord Jesus Christ is simply, with this verse, showing how profoundly important it is to love the Lord your God.
5B. What does it mean, then, when a person knows in his mind that he needs to get saved, realizes with his soul that he has sinned and come short of the glory of God, but holds back in his heart and does not come to Christ?
1C. It means you are still unconvinced. Despite what you may voice to others, and however you may deceive yourself, those who do not come to Christ remain in their sins because they want to, because they are not fully persuaded about their sinfulness, and they cling to some small hope of escaping the certain judgment of God.
2C. Since I have been studying this subject of the head, the heart, the mind, the soul and what part your conscience plays in all this, I have come to understand that “No one will miss heaven by twelve inches, for there is no distance between the head and the heart: ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The head/heart dichotomy is a figment of modern secular psychology, not a doctrine of divine revelation. St. Sigmund, not St. John, controls the pulpits in nearly all churches.”
2A. Thus, YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH GOD CONCERNING YOUR SINS
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1B. The reason you know in your mind that you desperately need Christ, yet hold back in your heart from believing unto righteousness, is that you remain unconvinced. The problem is not that your head knows one thing and your heart feels another. The problem is that you are double-minded. You might as well have two souls. You are like those people Elijah talked to on Mount Carmel so long ago: “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”
2B. How, then, is this knowledge in your mind and this contrary feeling in your heart to be explained, if your mind and heart are really one in the same? It is part of your pattern of self-deception, a typical characteristic of a heart that is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
3B. You simply do not want to bear the full weight of responsibility for rejecting the Son of God, for refusing the Lord Jesus Christ, for preferring sin to salvation. Since you obviously cannot blame someone else for your own refusal to obey the Gospel your deceitful heart, which is you by the way, creates a one-part-of-me-wants-this while another-part-of-me-does-that illusion.
4B. But what is behind this terrible self-deceit? You remain unconvinced.
1C. Perhaps you are not convinced that God truly is God.
2C. Perhaps you are not convinced that the soul that sinneth shall surely die.
3C. Perhaps you are still persuaded that you can decide to get saved later if you choose.
4C. Whatever the specific happens to be, you really do not want to be convinced.
5C. The inclination of your being is contrary to God. You are God’s enemy. You do not like Him. More than that, you hate Him.
6C. Yet that would seem too harsh, so you just straddle the issue, convinced that your head and your heart can’t get together.
7C. This is the reason why you feel so little guilt in connection with your sins.
1. The bottom line is this: Unless you are new around here you know enough Gospel truth to convert to Christ, if only you wanted to. But you don’t want to. Why? You like your sinning more than you think you will like salvation from sins.
2. The reality is that you are evil, wicked, mean and nasty. And you will say anything and do anything to make yourself feel better as a substitute actually getting saved. You do not want to face reality. You do not want to confront the truth. You do not want to accept responsibility for the decisions that you make. You want to blame it on some inner conflict excuse to make yourself feel better.
3. But the truth is what the Bible says. You sin against God because you want to. You want to because you are evil. And unless God works the miracle of the new birth in you, you will not face reality by turning from your sins and turning to Jesus Christ.
4. Stated another way, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 See discussion in Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990), pages 864ff.
 See footnote for Psalm 104.2 from Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, Inc., 1995), page 1998.
 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 208.
 Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1950), page 109.
 John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 640-641.
 Bauer, pages 708-709.
 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 52.
 Gordon H. Clark, What is Saving Faith?, (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), page 9.
 1 Kings 18.21