1 John 1:8 I sin, or I don’t sin, that is the question.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; NASB, http://www.blueletterbible.com

When you get down to it, we all have a bias on what we read.  if something does not make sense to us, we discredit it.  WHICH, considering if you are of the Christian faith is incredible since we are discussing and trusting a supernatural entity that lives outside of the creation.  BY the very nature of this Entity, there are aspects that should not make sense to us.

Consider Gideon’s challenge.  God shows up and says, “I need a leader!”  Gideon being the last heir of the last family in line thinks, “what are you doing here then?”  God sends him to gather an army.  Gideon the little over achiever gets one that is too big.  God keeps sending them home until they get down to the final 300.  God then states, “Disarm yourselves and drop your shields.  Now it’s 300 against 27,000 this is what we are going to do, you are going to arm yourselves with crock pots and tooting horns and come morning we are going to send them home.”

If you were Gideon, would that make sense to you?  Hearing the way many people abuse 1j 1:8, I’m of the opinion most believers today would tell God He’d lost His mind; that WE are the ones that excel at war; let us show Him how to do it!

His plan would not make sense to us, and since it didn’t, we’d have to do what we could to change the meaning of the words to suit our comprehension. I think part of faith is to trust what you don’t understand.  Which doesn’t mean trust blindly, but in the case of Gideon would mean trusting God even though it made absolutely no sense.  You might also consider the trust the three brothers had when they were told to sleep in the furnace.  😐

So, most people assume you “will sin until you die”, because they can’t comprehend how that would work out any other way.  Therefore this verse must be proof of that, since there is no other verse that comes close to that claim of, ‘sin until you die’, in the Bible.

This particular conversation has John writing “we all have sin…” We might want to read that as, “we will always sin”.   I think our need for justification might blind us to alternative meanings of the message.  Everyone wants it to say we all sin until we die, because it allows us to digest some of the more…. harsher, and condemning verses that appear later in this letter of John.

So, what does the verse say?   1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (all verses NASB @ http://www.blueletterbible.com  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves… This is interpreted as John Himself saying he still sins.  Admittedly that could be a meaning.  Understandably that is how most people will want to read it.  Unfortunately that is only “A POSSIBLE”claim of John’s comment.

I had a friend in junior high, who broke an arm and both clavicles.  As he walks today he (most likely) has nothing in a cast healing from a break.  He could say, “I have no broken bones” and it would be a true statement… sorta.  The fact is, he has three broken bones, but they are broken bones that are mended, or healed.

John, as a human being born post Adam, knows that he has sinned in his life.  Therefore if he says he has no sin, he’s a liar.  John having sinned in his life, does not mean he still sins, or commits sins in his life.  Same as my friend did not have broken bones now, but he could not deny he had broken bones because he had three.  They just happened to be healed.

To assume that the verse reads we are all sinners, is simply optimistic and imposing a conclusion that is not absolute.  In fact, it’s not even the most likely way to view the verse.

 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an  Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 

The conversation makes the most sense read like this… If we say we’ve never sinned we are full of it and lie to ourselves. However if we confess those sins we have he will forgive them and make our debt balanced.  If we deny that we have sinned, we make him a liar.  I’m writing this letter to you so you may not sin, but if anyone DOES sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus the Christ.

This is certainly AS likely as the presumption discussed above.  In fact, in regards to consistency with the rest of the letter it flows much smoother with much less bickering over words and editing of verses later on.  Also, it doesn’t require you to “read into it” or “deduce from information found in other but this letter.

But, this raises the question, could John have lived and not sinned anymore?  We want to state unequivocally that NO!  He could not!  But what can we deduce from the scripture.  Is that the most likely conclusion to draw. Let’s back up to earlier in the first chapter.

John announces who himself and his coterie with him are, that they have seen, heard, and touched the Word made Flesh.  They are eye witnesses, not some second hand informant.  They do not tell you what they have learned, or been taught, they are telling you what they have literally, physically experienced.  Their information is that fresh.

They write this letter describing what they have seen and heard, so that the recipients of the letter may ALSO be in fellowship with John and his coterie.  That fellowship is with God and His Son.

And this presents the first real dilemma.  Fellowship means being together, right? So, a crude simple picture of this scenario is John and His Coterie are in the kitchen with God and His Son.  The people he writes, he tries to help them get into the kitchen with them. This picture describes those he writes to as not yet being in fellowship with God and His Son.

It’s also possible that there are two rooms coming off the kitchen, and God and His Son are in fellowship with the two rooms on each side, but the two rooms aren’t linked together as they are on opposite sides of Christ. So, will this reconcile? Can we determine if either is more likely than the other.

Let’s let the text decide. If we continue with the first chapter we see that uniting with them in fellowship is the purpose of the letter.  This uniting is what will make their (authors)  joy complete.      Important to this fellowship, John notes that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.

We can assume that if God is Light, then Darkness would be sin, agreed? So the next dilemma we face is, if you sin until you die, how can you and your darkness be in Him if this verse says there is no darkness in Him?  And the answer I hear most often is, “when you are ‘saved’ and in Him, His light drowns out the darkness”.

I’m certainly not going to claim He’s incapable of doing that.  But another possible conclusion is to be considered. Perhaps that darkness must be gone, before you can be in Him?

A possible optimistic answer would be, “Christ forgives you and erases your darkness, so when you are saved the darkness is wiped away.”

And this presents yet another objection, what if you sinned after that, since we are discussing “our walk” in these discussions, our lifestyles, our inborn, natural tendencies in how our life pans out, then your darkness would still be there, and you would not be in Him, yet.

So the dilemma, “must the darkness be completely gone from your lifestyle before you are “in fellowship” with Him,” needs to be addressed.  We have a couple of options.

1)  The darkness is gone by His perception once He accepts you.   He considers that darkness accounted for, and as such it is considered NOT to be in Him.

2)  The darkness is not gone, until your sinning lifestyle has been completely changed and your natural self no longer commits sins.

Did we mention, earlier, something about the incredible claims of God that doesn’t make sense to us and we dismiss them automatically?  I think we can agree the second option fits that category, no? But, what does John give us to make that determination in this letter?

So far we have two dilemmas, to be in fellowship with Him there is no darkness in Him.  Is that darkness needing to be gone before or is considered gone after I am in Him?

John wants the recipients to be in fellowship with Him.  He and his coterie are in fellowship with God and His Son.  Would the recipients of the letter, not be in fellowship with God and His Son?  If they were in fellowship with John, they would be with John and his coterie, which are with God and His Son.

What follows in the next two verses addresses part of this, and was mentioned briefly above.

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Key to being in fellowship is that you no longer walk in darkness.  Walk, Peripateo, describes the direction of your life’s ethos; the nature of your life’s motivations; how your nature surfaces in your every day life. It is not a way you act, although it will evidenced in your actions.  It is not what you talk about, or a philosophy, or a theology.  It is not where you want to go, it is how and where you go.  And when your Peripateo is no longer in the darkness, you can look back and witness no more darkness occurring in your life.

If we walk in the light…. Peripateo/walk, you can take the same descriptions above but we can add the part that says “as He Himself is in the Light”.  Now we see our life, is called to reflect HIM, and not “like” him, but AS HE walks.  So our walk in the light, is as much in the light as His is.  That tends to lead me to believe that the darkness is gone, that it’s an absolute change in your life.  (corroborate with Rom 8:9A.)  It is an either / or situation.  And it’s an either or situation in regards to your Spiritual life.  Either you are walking as He does, or you still have darkness in you.

So, the impossibility thing we discussed above is screaming at this point for most who are reading my position.  So, let’s address the question, could we have a walk as complete as HIS is in the light, or must our walk always be marred with a little darkness popping up now and then?

First, let’s back up in the chapter to the fellowship part.  We find in JOHN (most likely same author, but not 100% conclusive) Jesus prayed for Unity in the 17th chapter.   I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. —  Christ is asking to be reunited with God, as much as He was before the creation.

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are–This verse references the Disciples, not all of mankind, but we see the desire of Christ is to have them be as united, every one, as Christ and God are united.

21 that they may all be one;even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may [f]believe that You sent Me.–  This “be one” that Christ asks for starts to flesh out, as resulting in those disciples being united with God as Christ is.  Everyone in each other and each other in everyone.

23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.— We see the plan for unity isn’t complete/ mature/ perfected/ telios or telioo or the like in Greek, is described as God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the people.  In this case, rather than us belonging in HIM, it is HIM coming to be in us. The father enters us through the Son.  He is in us at this point of maturity/perfection.

The Unity Jesus prayed for was without fail, complete unity with HIM, and the FATHER, and it’s all dependent and interlinked, like the picture of the Celtic Knot, intertwined no beginning and no end, Us in Him and Him in God, and God in Him and Him in Us, that we may all be together in Unity.

You will find Paul commenting that separation and factions are results of the flesh, in Gal 5:19-21, but He says in Ephesians 4 that we are to become perfect, also mature, as Christ is.  If Christ’s maturity was measured and compared to ours with a glass, then we would have the same size glass and it would be just as full as His perfectness/maturity was.

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man,* to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

*Mature = Greek word often translated as Perfect.  I mention it because many see the word Perfect and assume some Utopian value we have in today’s Modern English that wasn’t present in the meaning of the word in 1611 or even most of the 1900s.  As a result people get all aflutter with the word.

To a mature/perfect man.  HOW MATURE?

To the measure = same volume in the glass.

Of the stature = same size glass.

Of the FULLNESS of CHRIST.  It’s quadrupley redundant to make sure to drive the point home and not be sold short.

So, we see Christ asked for us to be as united with Him and God as Himself and God were.
We see Paul demanding we are to become as Mature as Christ Himself on earth was.

In Matthew 5, Christ commands us to be perfect as the Father is.  If you read the last part of the chapter, from about vs 43 through 48, you will see that the conversation is regarding HOW to love.  Anyone can love those that like them.  God loves even His enemies and provides the sun and the rain (necessities) for those enemies.  Therefore YOU (the people Christ writes to) are to be as perfect, which we understood means complete, or mature… YOU are to love as MATURELY AS GOD DOES, meaning even your enemies and His enemies.

In 1 John the unity is describes as walking in the light AS HE HIMSELF IS IN THE LIGHT.

The thought that we could somehow be changed, to become as completely spiritually mature, or finished as Christ Himself was, or we could walk in the light AS HE DOES, is not an impossibility according to scripture.  I suspect, if like Gideon, we trust He knows what He’s doing, and stay focused and “run the race” as Paul describes, He can get us where He wants us, in spiritual maturity, same as Gideon won the battle.

So, to be in fellowship with Him, we must walk in the light, AS HE HIMSELF IS IN THE LIGHT which would imply the darkness must be gone, before we are in fellowship with Him.

As we roll over to chapter 2, in verse 8, John writes as much.  “little children” (perhaps denotes maturity/not just a term of endearment) …

Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

New commandment/old commandment, love God/Neighbor.  In vs 8 we see the new commandment of love, is true in them, or is evident in them as the darkness is passing away, and the light is shining on them, in them, whatever the appropriate metaphor is.  The significant point to be seen here is, the darkness passes before the light shines.

To be in fellowship with Him, you must walk in the light as He does; there is no darkness in Him; therefore yours must be washed away before hand.

If you still sin, you do not know Him ans haven’t met Him. 1j 3:6

1 j 2 :The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

but whoever keeps His word, in him thelove of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:

chapter 4: 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

There is certainly a theme of knowing HIM results in not sinning.  There is NOT an argument that you must be past sin before you are saved.  We are talking a maturity stage here, not a salvific accomplishment.  In fact, the way you know you have become mature in your love, as Christ commanded in Matthew 5:48 is because you are keeping His commandments.  IT IS NOT saying, you have to keep His commandments to claim you love Him, which is you fighting and overcoming the sins for that right to say I love you.  It is saying you learn to love, grow in love, and that darkness is being washed off and the result is you are keeping His commandments.  Until you have the love right, vs 16,7 above, He is not in you and you are not in HIm.

John wrote in 1 john 3:9 and 5:18 that HIM IN YOU keeps you from sinning.  4:16 writes if HE is in you and YOU are in Him, the love is right.  According to the chapter 4 comments, pretend you were not sinning anymore, if you failed at the love part, He’s not in you and you aren’t in Him.

Now, those who are worried about salvation and sins.  To be clear, this is not about salvation.  In fact, if you accept the points so far, the people who John wrote to WERE saved.

We see they had Christ as their mediator 2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

I can not speak for Him, but I do not think He mediates for those that aren’t His, does He?  And John wrote in 1j 1:8-10 that those he wrote to, could confess their sins if they committed some still, that they had some darkness to be washed away still, and that Jesus would mediate for them.  All this in hopes that they could be in fellowship with him and his coterie, who were in fellowship with God, so John wrote this so they may not sin.  And if they grow in Love, which is the focus of maturity for the Christian, they will have Him in them and they will be in Him.  And Him in you, keeps you from the sin, NOT you keep yourself from sinning.  1j 3:9, 5:18, gal 5:16, Romans 8:1-9.

I would not ask you to accept these thoughts.  I merely set out to present you with an alternative POSSIBLE and corroborated read on the 1 john 1:8 “dilemma”.  I would challenge you to disprove this is possible.   And to consider, that God is supernatural.  So if there is some claim in scripture that may not seem naturally possible, that is not a reason to trust Him at His word and words, as well as His Word to accomplish what He offers. 🙂

Happy studying.

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4 comments on “1 John 1:8 I sin, or I don’t sin, that is the question.

  1. […] 1 John 1:8 and the sin forever quandry… […]

  2. plumber says:

    John, as a human being born post Adam, knows that he has sinned in his life. Therefore if he says he has no sin, he’s a liar. John having sinned in his life, does not mean he still sins, or commits sins in his life.

    But, this raises the question, could John have lived and not sinned anymore? We want to state unequivocally that NO! He could not!

    . Important to this fellowship, John notes that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.
    We can assume that if God is Light, then Darkness would be sin, agreed? So the next dilemma we face is, if you sin until you die, how can you and your darkness be in Him if this verse says there is no darkness in Him?

    . Perhaps that darkness must be gone, before you can be in Him?

    So the dilemma, “must the darkness be completely gone from your lifestyle before you are “in fellowship” with Him,” needs to be addressed. We have a couple of options.
    1) The darkness is gone by His perception once He accepts you. He considers that darkness accounted for, and as such it is considered NOT to be in Him.
    2) The darkness is not gone, until your sinning lifestyle has been completely changed and your natural self no longer commits sins.
    Did we mention, earlier, something about the incredible claims of God that doesn’t make sense to us and we dismiss them automatically? I think we can agree the second option fits that category, no? But, what does John give us to make that determination in this letter?

    John wants the recipients to be in fellowship with Him. He and his coterie are in fellowship with God and His Son. Would the recipients of the letter, not be in fellowship with God and His Son? If they were in fellowship with John, they would be with John and his coterie, which are with God and His Son.

    You sate that John can not live the rest of his life without sinning and that John says that God has no darkness in HIM and you say that darkness is sin. You state that John and his coterie are in fellowship with God and HIS SON but that there can not be fellowship if we still sin.

    You’ve disqualified the Apostle John in some of your first words and then tried to build an example of fellowship with God and Christ using the Apostle John for your example.

  3. You said, “But, this raises the question, could John have lived and not sinned anymore? We want to state unequivocally that NO! He could not!”

    My only objection is that John Himself says your assumption is wrong. He says he walks in the light AS HE DOES. Not as he does, but in the dark sometimes too, he says as He does.

    In 2:6-8, he comments that the people he wrote to were nearly there, they needed a little more darkness to be washed off. Errr, darknesss/sin, right? It’s nearly gone and THEN they will be in fellowship with God. Walk in the same manner as He did… umm either we should not be sinning at that point, OR He still sinned. Which one does your theology accept best?

    Then in 1 john 3 he says point blank, if you know Him or are born of Him, you no longer sin. I’m pretty consistent with how I read it.

    You suggest, “ou’ve disqualified the Apostle John in some of your first words and then tried to build an example of fellowship with God and Christ using the Apostle John for your example.”

    No, I haven’t. Nothing in my comments discredit John at all. Not that I can see. I’m game to consider it if you can give me a “for instance”.

    John said he was in fellowship with God and His Son, and that those he wrote to were not in fellowship with him, thus them/john/coterie/god/son.

    • plumber says:

      My friend,
      Only the last two paragraphs of my reply are my words. Everything else is from your post.
      The words “But, this raises the question, could John have lived and not sinned anymore? We want to state unequivocally that NO! He could not!” are yours.

      I’m trying to understand your thoughts before commenting but that statement, “your words” not mine, throws me for a loss. My reply is basically my notes as I try to digest your thoughts. I just hit a point where I couldn’t follow anymore so I’m asking for help or clairification.

      You think outside the box so to speak and I enjoy that but I can’t converse without being able to understand first. My understanding doesn’t mean that I will agree or disagree but I’ld like to be on the same page.

      Scroll down your initial post to where you see the infinity symbol on the right and look at the paragraphs on the left and a little bit lower.

      Thanks
      plumber

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