Today: [1 John 1:] What is Christian Sin? In 1 John 1 the apostle commands that we as believers face the issue of ongoing sin in our lives. As a believer, you will sin from time to time depending on your maturity level in Christ. Is this important to know or is sin just the shared experience of all and not to be too concerned about? John addresses this matter directly for our benefit.
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[1Jo 1:1-10 KJV] 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.
The epistle of 1 John is the fourth in a list of seven books listed in theology as the General Epistles. The General Epistles are:
As is typical with modern scholarship the writer of this letter is considered to be unknown to history while church tradition universally accepts that the message is written by John the Beloved, disciple of Jesus, from his advanced old age. It originates from Ephesus around AD 95. The earliest traditions and histories of the church hold that John was the only disciple to die a natural death and many believed that at some point he was actually translated to heaven like Elijah and Enoch. Jerome and other writers report that in later life he, in fact, did live in Ephesus being of so advanced an age that he was carried about on a litter to carry out his ministerial duties. His strength was such that he could not utter many words in exhortation but would muster the effort only to say “little children, love one another…” and then be carried back to his bed.
John’s opening remarks emphasize the importance of authenticity in the preaching of the gospel. What must be conveyed from the life of a leader is what they have seen with their eyes and have handled with their hands of the word of life. What John and the apostles gave us was their witness and their experience of being with Jesus and witnessing the resurrected Lord and His ascension. This is very needed today. It is not enough to teach something doctrinally correct. You must tell what you have seen and heard. Two ministers can give the same message, but one speak from experience and the other only theory. There is no life in a doctrinal theory. You must tell what you have seen and heard, ministering from the impact of Christ on your life. Life begets life – all else is deception, misdirection, and vain jangling. You cannot give to others what you do not have.
This validated authentic life in Christ is the basis of John’s ministry (v. 3) and the foundation of our fellowship with one another. Note that in v. 3 fellowship is not established on common doctrine but on common and authentic spiritual experience. If all we bring is doctrine as the grounds of our connection to one another, we have become merely part of a dead exoskeleton of empty religious concepts. Where is the experience? We can certainly have fellowship but only by the authentic appropriating of the reality of Christ does God enter into our fellowship and raise us to a new level of power and glory.
Why is John writing these things to us? That our joy may be full. Note that he isn’t concerned with trivial matters of the subtler points of orthodoxy. John’s heart is focused on that which is relational and experiential in God. All else is vain religion and nothing better than the pagan religions of the superstitions in the world. Christianity stands apart not in its doctrine or practice but in its living, vital connection to the Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship with one another that arises from that connection a living Lord.
What is the message that John is consumed with? It is the message that God is light and in him is no darkness at all (v. 5). If we say we have fellowship and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. Notice that John is saying if we WALK in darkness. To walk means to progress by steps. Are you progressing or maturing in darkness or are you progressing and growing in the light? You might struggle with darkness, but it is not the same thing. We all struggle. Your fellowship with God does not exclude being tempted from time to time. We are talking about the spiritual characteristics of your walk consistently tracking toward the things of God and away from the elements of the world. This is the hallmark of a life lived in pursuit of the kingdom.
What is this preoccupation with walking in the light? It is the condition (v. 7) of the ongoing cleansing of the blood of Christ in our life. If we walk in darkness allowing sin and shortcoming to dominate our character without offering any resistance our hypocrisy negates the condition of cleansing by the blood. Just because we say “I repent” or “please forgive me” doesn’t mean God rubber stamps the terms of redemption upon you. The cleansing of the blood of Christ is authenticated and validated by the sincerity of your walk with God.
There were those that believed in John’s day and in our day as well (v. 7) that if you are in Christ, then you have no sin – even if you do sin. In other words, the idea is that Christian sin is a different matter than the sin of those who do not accept Christ. Many believe and practice (even if they don’t admit belief) that the efficacy of the blood of Christ constitutes a measure of laxity in the heart of God toward transgression in the life of a professed Christian. John declares this licentious attitude to arise from nothing more than deception.
What are we to do with our ongoing and repeated acts of sin? We are to confess our sins to Him that is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. When is the last time you examined your day and asked Jesus to forgive you for sins committed? If you haven’t done this recently is it because you have not sinned? If you say you have not sinned or that a blanket pardon somehow covers your sin because you profess Christ you are sadly mistaken and there are consequences for doing so that are more dire than you might know.
Sin is a reality and not a feature of our ongoing life in Christ. We may not say that we do not have sin, but the modern perspective on sin is that it exists and doesn’t matter in the life of a Christian as much as it does in the life of an unbeliever. An unbeliever’s sin puts them in hell for an eternity, but modern thinking seems to be that a believer’s sin has very little consequence because after all “the blood covers.” If we say we have not sinned or that in sinning we are automatically covered by the clemency of God in Christ, then John declares to us that we are liars and have made God a liar and His word is not in us. Little children, the next chapter continues – John is writing these things that we sin not.
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