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I John 1:10

1 John 1:8 If our claim is that we have no sin, we are self-deceived, 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 claim that we have not sinned,

we make Him a liar,

and

His word is not in us.

 

Introduction

Our text this morning continues our study of John’s first general Epistle.

Now remember, in this portion of the epistle, John is reminding his readers of two vital points that all the Apostles’ teach and which his readers will need in hand as John moves forward to confront the false teachers that are troubling the church.

 

In verses 5-7 John covered the first of these two foundational truths. John reminded us that all the Apostles teach that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.

 

In our current passage (verses 8-10), John turns to consider the second key foundational truth of the Apostles’ teaching. John reminds us that all of us sin and thus all of us require the ongoing cleansing that Christ provides.

 

Notice then, last week, John showed us the proper response to sin that all the Apostles teach. We are to confess our sins. In our text this morning, John turns to show us the improper response.

 

Verse 10

Notice at once the contrast: in verse 9 John reminds us that all the Apostles teach that we are to confess our sins. However, in verse 10 we find folks who claim that they have not sinned. Therefore, they do not confess or repent. However, please note the folks in verse 10 are not claiming to be perfect or asserting that they have never made any mistakes. Instead, these are the very people from verse 8 who deny that sin is an ongoing condition that corrupts the whole of life. As such, they do not acknowledge the moral significance of any particular misdeed. Instead, they have followed the false teachers’ claim that what we do in the body does not matter (it does not have any bearing of the eternal fate of the soul). However, notice the change in vantage point: in verse 8 the verb “claim” is a Constative Aorist. As such, it presents the action as a singular, definitive whole. In other words, verse 8 is describing a normative/standard practice. It is their standard claim/assumption because it is who they believe they are. However, in verse 10 the same verb “claim” is a Customary/Habitual Present. As such, it views a single action as an ongoing and repeated event. In other words, if verse 8 showed us an underlying attitude or condition, then verse 10 allows us to watch that attitude in action as it plays out in real time. Simply put, in verse 10 we are watching the folks from verse 8 actually respond to particular misdeeds. Thus, if verse 8 is static, then verse 10 is dramatic. Importance: remember repetition means emphasis. Notice then verse 10 repeats the Apostles teaching from verse 8 almost verbatim. Not only that, the changes that John does make here in verse 10 are intended to show us the same basic ideas from verse 8 just in a different light (from a different angle). Why? It is this very false claim (that sin is not an ongoing factor in our lives) that is being perpetuated by the false teachers who are troubling John’s churches. Therefore, John wants to make sure we have a clear and thorough understanding of the issue FN#1.

 

Next, notice to whom the folks in verse 10 make this claim. First, it is something they tell themselves. Thus, verse 8 tells us they are self-deceived. As such, their basic understanding of self and world is fundamentally flawed. Next, this claim is something that they make to others. As such, they not only perpetuate this false teaching (thus providing like excuse to others), they leave the hurt that their actions have caused unacknowledged and unmended. Importance: at once you are beginning the see the severity of the impact that this false teaching is having on the churches. It is facilitating an easy out that morally bankrupts those who take it and it is allowing unresolved hurt and brokenness to fester.  Finally, this is a claim that these folks make before God and about God (as we are about to see).

 

Next, notice the nature of the false claim in verse 10. The folks here deny that they have sinned. However, notice the dramatic presentation at work here. First, the verb “sin” is an Extensive/Comprehensive Perfect. As such, it places the emphasis on an action completed in the past. Not only that, remember John is allowing us to watch the attitude we saw in verse 8 play out in real time. In other words, what we are watching is the way these folks respond to something they have actually done. Notice then the contrast: In verse 9 John showed us the proper way that all the Apostles teach that we are to respond to our misdeeds and struggles. We are to confess our sins. That is, we are to say the same thing about our actions as God does FN2. However, notice the difference: when these folks are confronted with a wrong doing, they deny its moral significance, the real harm it has caused, and their obligation (to God and others) to address it. Simply put, they say something very different about their actions than God says. Instead, they refute/contradict God’s assessment/claim. Notice the result: they make God to be a liar. That is, they say that God has lied about the nature of sin, man’s obligation to serve God, and man’s responsibility for the harm their sins have brought to others. However, please note the darkness/severity of what John is saying here: not only that notice the darkness of the heart from which such a claim comes: the folks who make such a claim are not just saying that God is mistaken or that He has a different take on things. Instead, they are saying that any God who really is God, would know better. Therefore, any God (or any religion that purports such a God) is intentionally trying to deceive/manipulate its followers. As such, they claim that all this talk about sin, atonement, and obligation is an outright lie that is meant to bind us.

 

Next, notice the second result of their claim: John says that God’s word is not in them. Importance: notice at once John’s play on meaning here: first, when our standard custom is to speak that which is contrary to what God says, then it is evident that God’s Word (what God has said/spoken) is not in us FN#3. However, please note: John does not merely say that these folks don’t know God’s Word or that they don’t agree with God’s Word. Instead, he says that God’s Word is not in them. In other words, once again John reminds us that all the Apostles point to a living and indwelling Truth/Word. That is, Scripture is not only the outward standard of all truth, it is also an active, creative Word which God speaks into our lives transforming and recreating us FN#4. Notice the result: the folks in verse 10 do not accept God’s word, what they say doesn’t agree with God’s word, and they don’t live God’s Word. Why? God’s presence and grace are not at work in them, unfolding the very salvation that God’s Word proclaims to them FN#5. Notice the point: John warns his readers that any person or false teacher who claims that sin is irrelevant (denies or downplays sin) is not only not on the path to spiritual enlightenment, they do not even know God or the true salvation from sin that God provides. Therefore, we are not to follow or adopt their teachings.

 

Bottom line: once again, John reminds me that all the Apostles teach that true salvation/grace does not mean that we are perfect or that we don’t have real sins and struggles. Instead, when God’s grace/salvation/Word dwells in us, it constantly prompts us to bring our ongoing needs to Christ for Him to forgive and heal. In turn, John also reminds me that all the Apostles teach that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. As such, anything from God will reflect God and draw us to God. It is these two points that John wants us to have with us as he moves forward to confront the false teachers that are troubling the church. FN#6

 

Footnotes

1] Repetition means emphasis. Notice then the surprise: we would have expected John’s focus in this passage to be on the assurances of grace found in verse 9. However, instead, John emphasizes sin and our ongoing need for that grace. Why? John knows that we cannot truly understand the amazingness of the grace in verse 9 while denying or lessening the severity of the sin that it addresses. In other words, as long as we do not see a problem, we will not seek the solution. It is this very threat that the false teachers are posing.

 

2] Remember, at its root, the Greek word here for “confess” means to say the same thing as another. In fact, ὁμολογέω (confess) is a compound word made of two parts: homo (ὁμό)- which means the same + logeo (λογέω the verbal form of logos/λογος)- which means to speak. Thus at its basis the word means to say the same thing, to speak the same word. The result is, to confess our sins is to say the same thing about our actions as God does.

 

3] Notice the shift between verse 8 and 10: in verse 8 John said that when we make such a claim that the truth is not in us. Here in verse 10 he says God’s Word is not in us.  In other words, for John and all the Apostles God’s Word is synonymous/

equivalent to The Truth about God that God has manifested to us in His Son. In other words, Scripture is the Spirit preserved witness/testimony/revelation about God by God. Importance: the changes John makes between verses 8 and 10 show us the same basic ideas in different light. As such, these changes allow us to gain a more thorough understanding of the matter before us

 

4] Notice then this is the very point that Paul makes:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said (Word), "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts (living/ indwelling) to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (transformative).

Thus God’s word is spoken, indwelling, and transformative. Notice then the pattern/meaning established by John’s play

·       Verse 1- Word of Life (Jesus God’s eternal Son manifested to us)

·       Verse 6,8- Indwelling Truth

·       Verse 10- Indwelling Word

In other words, Word, Truth, and word all show us the same thing from different angles. That is, they all describe the salvation, grace, and revelation of God by God in the manifestation of His eternal Son Jesus (the Word of Life). In turn, they all point to the indwelling presence and grace of God as the Spirit applies this salvation/truth/word to us.

 

5] Importance: remember Scripture is the blue print of grace. That is, Scripture is what grace is doing in our lives. As such, the Spirit always works according to His Word, applying to us what God requires of us and Christ accomplished for us. This is what we mean by a living/indwelling Word

Jeremiah 31:33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

 

6] Notice at once the pattern that John has established throughout this theological section of his epistle (5-10): for each of the two key points of the Apostles’ teaching John contrasts false claims with grace changed lives. Thus, we have the repeated couplet

            If we say/claim                       {verses 6,8,10}

versus

            If we do (walk, confess)         {verses 7,9}

Importance: by repeating this contrast John drives us back to the Apostles’ teaching that the grace that saves you both forgives and changes you. That is, true grace/salvation alters who you are and what you do, not just what you say or claim.

 

 

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