A Needed Clarification on 1John 1:9

February 19, 2008

This Sunday evening at Connection I spoke on the subject of confession of sin from 1John 1:9. In response to the morning sermon from Hebrews 10:1-18, I stated that one necessary element of our celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf so  is that celebration of the cross should lead to confession of sin. The basis of eager and open confession of sin is rooted in the fact that, “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. At the heart of this verse is the need for forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness comes through the shedding of blood, and once-and-for-all forgiveness comes through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So when we confess our sins to God – as we should do regularly because as followers of Jesus we are saints who sometimes sin – God is faithful and just to the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. Hopefully this truth will make us even more eager to confess our sins knowing that the cross is the grounds for God being faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us.

But here is where the clarification is needed. I also stated (incorrectly I might add) that when John states that God is “faithful and just” he is not making a statement about God’s character. I unintentionally mispoke and shouldn’t have said this because it isn’t true, nor is it what I believe. John is making a statement about God’s character, and what I should have said is that John isn’t only making a statement about God’s character. He is, rather, making a statement about God’s character as both revealed and satisfied by the merits of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. God the Father is “faithful and just” to the sacrificial death of His Son, and He must be both of these things because God is both faithful and just, and the sacrifice of Jesus is the only means of honoring both God’s faithfulness and justice in regards to sin. In an effort to highlight the implicit centrality of the the sacrifice of Jesus in the passage, I unintentionally minimized God’s character as faithful and just. While it was not my intent to do so, I felt it appropriate to clarify a more wholistic, accurate interpretation of the text.

I pray that today you will celebrate Jesus as your sacrifice as you pursue holiness and righteousness in your actions and thoughts. But when you fail to glorify God as you should, eagerly confess those sins to God, who is willing and able to forgive you, not on the basis of better performance on your part in the future, but on the merits of Jesus’ sacrificial death on your behalf.

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