1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Realizing the gem encased in 1 John 1:9 was one of the most significant landmarks in learning how to live out my faith, and it can be the same landmark for you in your faith journey. In church I had always heard that sin was bad, but in my practical life I had learned to excuse myself by insisting, “no one is perfect, we all have sin in our lives.” I knew that no matter how mature I became in my faith, because I still had the old sin nature, sin would always be a part of my life here on earth; it was inescapable. What I had failed to realize was the consequence of that sin, a reality that the prophet Isaiah opened my eyes to in Isaiah 59:2 which says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”
Whenever a person first places his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, he is forgiven for all sins—past, present, and future. At the moment of his salvation, the righteousness of God is imputed to him as his legal heavenly position in Christ (Romans 5:1), and he will never lose either this forgiveness or his righteous standing before God. When the believer sins, what he will lose, however, is his intimacy with God; and 1 John 1:9 is the God-given remedy for such broken intimacy.
The best explanation of the forgiveness offered in this verse was provided by Rich Thomson in his book The Heart of Man and the Mental Disorders. In this book he writes:
“When one is an unbeliever and comes to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, it is as if he had been living in a world of utter physical darkness. At the moment of his salvation the light of the sun invades his darkness, and he begins to live in its brightness and warmth. The sun, in fact, will never set on his world from that time on and forever. That is eternal forgivenss–God’s wrath toward the believer has been dealt with at the Cross, and now he lives only in the light of His love. When this new believer sins, he does not lose the light of the sun in his world, but his sin produces deep, dark clouds which obscure the sun. The sun is still shining above the clouds, be he is, for the time being, not living in its light and warmth. When the believer confesses all known sin to his Father, God Himself immediately removes the clouds which have gathered, and he again lives in brightness and warmth. That is family forgiveness—the renewal of intimacy which the believer enjoys with the God who loves him.”
First John 1:9 plainly states one of the richest promises for the believer who has done what we all do—sin. If we confess our sin, this verse tells us that Jesus Christ is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins. Because “God is faithful” this promise is absolutely assured, and because of what Christ has done through the shedding of His blood on Calvary’s Cross, He is absolutely just and righteous to forgive us our sins; so-much-so that “He would actually be unrighteous if He broke his promise ratified by the blood of Jesus.” But since this verse begins with “if we confess,” we know that this promise is conditional; although this promise is readily available, the question now becomes: “Will you confess?”
So the next time you find yourself having committed a sin, do not justify it, excuse it, or downplay it-abide by the God-given remedy offered in Scripture and confess it! This means that you agree with God that what you have done is, in fact, sin, and you forsake it by purposing not to do it anymore. Whenever you have confessed your particular sin, you can rest assured that you have been forgiven and that, therefore, your intimacy with the Savior has been restored so that you can again walk by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17).
by Cameron Penrose
Rich Thomson, The Heart of Man and the Mental Disorders: How the Word of God is Sufficient (Alief, TX: Biblical Counseling Ministries), 106.
Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 495.