Search
Close this search box.

Question

What Does 1 John 1:9 Mean?

Answer

Many Christians have been programmed to believe that you need to confess your sins to God in order to be forgiven and if you don’t, God will not forgive you. Nothing could be further from the truth “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). If someone says that I believe in Jesus and that he took away our sins, then why would someone be asking God to forgive them over and over? This confusion could be the reason you clicked on this link, to get to the bottom of it once and for all. 

 1 John 1:9 is a not a verse to believers, but to unbelievers, who claimed to be without sin (1 John 1:8), and claimed they have not sinned (1 John 1:10).  A born again Christian would never say they do not have sin or say they have not sinned. Only a lost person would say these things.

The Context of 1 John 1:8-10

1 John 1:8 says that the truth is not in them. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So what John is saying in 1 John 1:8 is that Jesus is not in them, referring to a lost person. Look at what 2 John 1:1-2 says “To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever”.

1 John 1:10, says the gnostics were deceiving themselves and were making Jesus out to be a liar. What kind of person does John say is a liar? “Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. ” (1 John 5:10). 1 John 1:8 and 1:10 are obviously referring to lost souls.

1 John 1:9 offers the remedy to lost souls and answers both 1 John 1:8 and 1 John 1:10. If we confess or agree that we have sin or have sinned, well guess what…..”Jesus is faithful and just and to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NLT).

When were you cleansed from unrighteousness? When you put your faith in Jesus and received His righteousness. Yes, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us because he has forgiven us at the cross, over 2023 years ago. The NLT is a better version when trying to understanding 1 John 1:9. The “if we confess” means, if we agree with God, that we are a sinner (our condition), then Jesus is our provision for forgiveness and eternal life.

1 John 1:9 is easily the single most misunderstood verse in the entire Bible. Many pastors, seminaries, authors, televangelists, and Christians are misusing 1 John 1:9. They use 1 John 1:9 as a “Christian bar of soap” to defend the argument that you must ask God to forgive you, after each and every sin. What if you miss one? What if you die in an auto crash after having a sinful thought? What they are ultimately saying is that God will not forgive you unless you confess it to Him and then ask Him to forgive you. With this line of thinking, a person will never come to the conclusion that God has completely forgiven them. They will never understand the finality of the cross or be able to experience God’s Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).

1 John 1:9 is a salvation verse to lost people, not a verse for Christians to use in order to remain forgiven by God.

A person who asks God to forgive them over can never be 100% sure of their salvation and will secretly live in fear. They will be “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:6) and will be “trampling the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29).

There are so many verses in the New Testament that mention Jesus took away our sins. Does it make sense to ask for what you already have?  Bible verses about forgiveness.

Who Was 1 John Written to and Why?

Gnosticism was creeping into the church in Ephesus. The word Gnostic is derived from the Greek word “gnosis” meaning “knowledge”. The Gnostics were a group of people who believed they had superior spiritual knowledge. They believed

3 things:

1. That flesh was evil and that only spirit was good. (That is why they did not believe that Jesus came in the flesh.)

2. That they did not have a sinful nature and therefore did not need their sins to be forgiven and

3. That salvation is gained through the acquisition of divine knowledge, not by faith in Jesus Christ.

A Christian pastor in Ephesus asked John to write a letter to help people from falling into Gnosticism. The pastor was an evangelist and wanted people to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by superior knowledge. John knew that a lost person would need to know they had a sinful nature before they could receive new life in Christ. 

It all boils down to who you think the first chapter of 1 John is written to. If you believe the first chapter was written to saved people, you will be misusing 1 John 1:9 and will struggle with the finality of the cross. You should be asking yourself, “If God has forgiven me, then why am I asking for God to forgive me over and over?” Again, does it make sense to ask for what you already have? How is this different than the Old Testament sacrifices, which had to be done yearly, again and again? 

If you believe the first chapter was written to lost people, who claimed they had no sin, then you will finally stop using 1 John 1:9 as a “Christian bar of soap” and be able to come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ took away all your sins. Past, present, and future. You will be thanking God for taking away your sins, instead of asking God to forgive you after each sin. You will experience great joy the day you give up shooting apologies up to God and start trusting Jesus that He has taken away ALL your sins.

It is clear that John switches his attention to born again believers starting in 1 John 2. He uses the phrase “Dear children” at least 10 times throughout the rest of his letter.

Let’s Answer Some Questions

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 1 John 1:1-2

Which 3 senses did John use in his encounter with Jesus?

1.

2.

3.

What was John proclaiming that is found in Jesus?

Verse 1 and 2 were written to counter the claim that Jesus did not come in the flesh.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:3-4

Why did John proclaim what they had seen and heard?

Would you ask someone to be in fellowship, if they already were?

Who did John say he had fellowship with?

What do you conclude from these verses?

Verse 3 and 4 were written to encourage lost people to have fellowship with the Father, Jesus, and John.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7

What is the message John heard and was declaring?

What is the opposite of darkness? See 2 Corinthians 6:14

Is there any darkness in Jesus? See John 8:12

Can we have fellowship with Jesus and walk in darkness at the same time?

If we agree to walk in the truth (the light), who do we have fellowship with? See 1 Corinthians 1:9 

Do you think John was pleading with the Gnostics to agree to walk in the light and in truth?

How are we purified from all sin? 

Verses 5-7 were written to say that you cannot claim to have fellowship with God and Jesus and walk in darkness and error. If you claim this, you are a liar. Then John encourages lost people to turn from darkness (lost) to light (saved). If you do walk in the light and believe in Jesus you will be in fellowship with God, Jesus, and John too. And guess what, all your sins have been forgiven.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

What does John say about people like the Gnostics who claim to be without sin?

Are they deceived? Is the truth in them?

Would a Christian claim to be without sin? 

Who does “the truth” refer to? See John 14:6

Does Jesus, “the truth” live in a Christian?  What about a lost person? See 2 John 1:1-2

Verse 8 is again to a lost person who claims to be without sin.

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:10

What did John say about people who claimed they have never sinned?

Again, would a Christian claim they have never sinned? 

Who then do you conclude John is writing to in 1 John 1:10?

What do people who claim to be without sin call Jesus?

Are liars holding to the truth? Who is the author of lies? See John 8:44

Who does “the word” refer to? See John 1:1-2

Again, is Jesus “the word” living in a Christian? What about a lost person?

Verse 10 is to a lost person also.

How did John Answer These Gnostic Claims? (Be sure to keep this in context of 1 John 1:1-10)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Note: Synonyms for the word “confess”:  

If the Gnostics would confess, agree, admit, concede, fess, own up to the fact, that they have a sinful nature, what is it that Jesus is faithful to have done for them? Forgive them and cleansed them from all unrighteousness.

Making Conclusions

So what does 1 John 1:9 mean? It is a salvation verse to those who claimed to be without sin. That one day if you come to your senses and put your faith in Jesus Christ by faith, you will be born again, become right with God and purified from all unrighteousness. You also have been forgiven of all your sins by the blood of Jesus Christ!

1 John 1:9 is very similar to Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” To “declare” in Romans 10:9 or to “confess” in 1 John 1:0 is simply to agree that God’s word is true, and that we need a Savior.

Many popular question and answer websites say that we need to confess our sins over and over, so that “we can be reassured that God has forgive us”. This is absolutely incorrect!  Is it our confession to God that reassures us that we are forgiven, or the Word of God?

In real estate, it is location, location, location. When we read the Bible it is context, context, context. If we don’t look at Bible verses in context, we will be misunderstanding the Word of God.

For many Christians I know, understanding 1 John 1:9 and the Lord’s Prayer has been a game changer, and has even been the very thing that has led them to salvation for the very first time.

Friend, if you enjoyed this then I would love to hear from you.