Year B – Easter 2 – 1 John 1:1-2:2
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.4We are writing these things so that our* joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;7but 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.8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Summary— John, in his first epistle, is very concerned that we know whether or not we have fellowship with God and His people. Apparently, knowing this can help us not sin (2:1). In 1:6-10, he discusses two categories of people—those who have fellowship, and those who don’t—and he alternates back and forth between them. In this alternating pattern, verse 9 identifies those who do indeed have fellowship with God: those who are confessing their sins. The implications in this verse are clear: those who are not confessing their sins are not among the forgiven, not among those to whom God is faithful, not among those cleansed from unrighteousness. But those of us who are confessing our sins are among the forgiven. Now, do our confessions merit God’s forgiveness? Of course not—conditional statements can be used in a variety of ways; for instance, in Hebrews 3:14, the author says, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Does such language mean that “holding our original confidence” merits our “sharing in Christ”? No—it means that “holding our original confidence” evidences that we’re among those who “share in Christ.” The conditionality of 1 John 1:9 works similarly: If we continually confess our sins, we evidence that we are among those to whom God is faithful and just, forgiving our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. And John emphasizes that this forgiveness is possible not only because Jesus died for it, but also because He lives for it: “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1). You see, Jesus always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25); in other words, He is continually “reminding” the Father not to hold our sins against us, on the basis of His blood which substituted for our blood. Even as we are committing sin, Jesus is already presenting His blood; God is continually forgiving as we are continually sinning because Jesus is continually interceding. This is His priestly ministry, and it’s for that group of people who are characterized by frequent confession.
Insight— Why should you ask God’s forgiveness? Because it’s your daily experience of the gospel: you bow your head to ask forgiveness, and Jesus bids you raise your eyes and behold Him, your bloody Advocate, already making intercession for you. In the words He taught us to pray, Jesus directs us to an ongoing expression of faith, namely, pleading His blood for our ongoing sinfulness. It is not so much the means whereby forgiveness is acquired as it is the means whereby forgiveness is admired. It puts Christ’s priesthood, not into action, but into view. The faith by which you were united to Christ is the faith by which you abide in Christ; by it, you look to your High Priest, not once, but a million times. You ask, knowing that you already have what you ask for. May those who find themselves confessing rejoice, and those who do not so find themselves tremble, to know that we who continually confess our sins are the ones to whom God is faithful and just, forgiving our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
Child Catechism— How do you know whether God forgives your sins and cleanses you from unrighteousness? By confessing my sins to Him.
Discussion— Would Christ’s sacrifice on the cross have applied to your sins today if Christ had not been ministering as your High Priest today?
Prayer— O God, if we say that we have fellowship with You while we walk in darkness, we lie; but, if we walk in the light as You are in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; but, if we confess our sins, we are among those to whom You are faithful and just, forgiving our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. Help us always to confess, trusting that Jesus, through whom we pray, is both Sacrifice and Priest. Amen.
Contributed by Scott Cline