By Charles Crosby
1 John 1 is not addressed to converts or Born Again Believers! How can this be I hear you say, and if it is not addressed to Spirit Born believers, how have 'Bible scholars', ministers, pastors and theologians missed this crucial understanding of God's Word? Under the title Recipients in the NIV Study Bible they clearly state 1 John is aimed at believers, but notice, they conveniently choose 1 John Chapter 2 to erroneously prove their point i.e. they go straight to Chapter 2 and in the process by-pass Chapter 1. Why do they do that? Easy, the NIV is the work of Bible intellectuals and theologians who are men with their own agendas. Unfortunately these agendas are not The Lord Jesus Christ's agenda and they never were.
Now, there are two factors of error or gross misunderstanding at work here. The first and most important factor is the error of reading the epistles as if they were, and are, written for the benefit of the converted alone. In fact this is a common failure of most 'Christian teaching'. The second factor of error, which leads to the first error is this: Paul's epistles are aimed at the converted or those being called; that is, Spiritually aware, so the above mentioned 'authorities' jump to the conclusion that all the epistles that follow Paul's epistles are also written to the same audience; to disciples, Spiritual beginners and mature Born Again believers alike. This is what I call 'one size fits all' preaching or, preaching as if to people all with same level of Spiritual maturity, but as I will prove, this is definitely not the case and especially in 1 John 1.
As an example, let's consider this; everyone is in church on a Sunday and a Spiritual message is delivered. Now this message maybe for those new to The Faith or it maybe for Spiritual children or it maybe for mature believers; some will say "is there a difference?" Well Paul certainly thought there was because he withheld his meaty teaching from certain congregations because they weren't ready for it:
1 Corinthians 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
I have only ever met one minister who differentiated or separated his flock for teaching. Why did he do this? After I have explained 1 John 1 I hope you will understand why he did.
So if 1 John 1 is not aimed at Born Again Believers, to whom is it aimed and what is the issue at stake here in this passage of Holy Scripture? Is the issue sin? Well yes, of course it is, but then again, no, it's more than that. The emphasis is more to do with attitude toward sin, a preparedness to admit to being a sinner, a willingness to confess those sins for the first time - honesty and truthfulness. Being prepared to not live in a state of denial; a state of mind of not kidding oneself - Truth, but before I get into the meat of this passage we need to understand the opening verses of 1 John 1.
1 John 1:1-5 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; Verse 2; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us Verse 3; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Verse 4; And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. Verse 5; This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."
Look at these opening verses carefully. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard..." John is immediately setting the scene, style and approach of this letter or as some have commented - this sermon - a letter to be read aloud to the Churches, but what is the style or approach of this letter? It's as if it is all new to the listeners and of course, it is, because the first five verses amount to a declaration and the word 'declare' appears twice; verses 3 & 5. Now only new news is declared - no one ever declares old news, so these opening verses must be for the benefit of those who have not heard this message before; they were new to this message and teaching. Why would John 'declare' this news to those already converted? They already believe, don't they? Have they not heard this message before? Of course they have, they knew very well that the Apostle John was an original disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you noticed, too, the other important point here, a point more important than it being a declaration? I have put it italics along with the word 'declare' - "That you also may have fellowship with us". We need to understand this crucial point! This is telling us that these people are not yet in fellowship with the brethren of that Church; they are not yet in fellowship with the congregation of that church area and if you ignore this Truth then you do so at your peril.
OK, let's now move on to the meaty part of this chapter, and notice, John opens it with the word 'IF' (the biggest word in the world!) and he says it five times.So let's go through these five verses, one by one, and reveal the real message or Truth within them:
1) Verse 6: "IF we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:"
Straight away, John is stating an obvious fact; how can we say we have fellowship with The Lord Jesus Christ and walk in darkness; it's impossible and it is a total contradiction in terms and in Spiritual reality? So who are they that walk in darkness? Who do you think they are; the fairies at the bottom of your garden!!?? Why, it's those who are still in the world and are of the world and are not saved - they are the lost, they are those who live in darkness and they walk in darkness and, therefore, cannot "do The Truth". Why can't they "do The Truth", because The Truth is not in them? Why and how is the Truth not in them, because they have not been called of the Father to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit!? They are not Born Again or Born from above. So why did John make this challenging, opening statement? Why, to help these potential new converts to examine themselves to see if the Father was calling them to His Son or not - to see if they were "doing The Truth". Furthermore, if we say we have fellowship with Him and we are not disciples or Born Again, then we are liars - plain and simple.
2) Verse 7: "But IF we walk in the light, as He is in The Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
Now what is John saying here when he says: "If we walk in The Light, as He is in the Light"? Let's be clear, the word 'in' here is a poor translation, because the Lord Jesus Christ is The Light, so He has to be able to walk 'in' the light for all The Light emanates from Him in the first place. The Lord Jesus Christ never walked in light that came from elsewhere or from another source, and I will rewrite verse 5 for the proof of this fact:
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
Returning to verse 7, what is John saying here? He is saying 'If we?' Well, do we or don't we, do we walk in The Light or not, or perhaps more importantly; how can we walk in The Light? That's easy, or maybe it's not so easy. We begin to walk in The Light by confessing our sins, being baptised and receiving the Holy Spirit - becoming a Born Again son or daughter of God. Now we walk in The Light. Now we have fellowship one with another as brothers and sisters as Jesus' Blood has cleansed us from; now notice this - ALL SIN. All sin means all sin, not some of our sins but all of them!! Past, present and future, and don't let any blasphemer tell you otherwise.
3) Verse 8: "IF we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
OK, here's a question: What type of person is going to say they have no sin? Is a non believer going to say this or someone the Father is calling? Or, in this case, are these potential converts going to admit that they are sinners or not; are they going to say that they have no sin or confess that they do have sin? If they are going to say they have no sin they are then deceiving themselves. In this scenario of 1 John 1 the Father is probably calling some of them, and this question will challenge them and convict them, but not the others. Some of them will not have The Truth and some of them will have The Truth, so who is not going to be truthful? Now notice the last part "The Truth is not in us". If The Truth is not in someone, then they are of the world and not Born Again; they do not have the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. Now, if the Father is calling someone [John 6:44], this potential convert's awareness of sin is automatically enlivened; he or she will be made aware of their sins for the first time in their lives. Anyone reading this passage of Scripture, too, will also be convicted of their sins for the first time in their lives if they are being called. This is the whole purpose of 1 John 1.
If, on the other hand, we think this verse applies to True Believers or to those Born Again, let's try and apply it to them and see if it makes any sense. As an aside, I ask this question, for there are multiple thousands of mainstream Christians out there, who have been Baptised (albeit erroneously into the trinity) and do believe that this verse applies to them, and then they wonder why they find no relief from guilt and no peace - the peace that passeth all understanding. This means they do not live under grace.
OK, I've digressed a little there, but a necessary digression. So, is a Born Again son or daughter of God going to say they have no sin? Hello! Excuse me! Well, the first thing a switched on believer will say to this question is something like this: I have a body of sin that sins, but I, the Born Again Spiritual new man, do not sin because I cannot sin, so that means I can tell you quite plainly that I have no sin, apart from the sin in my body of sin which is no longer me, it's just a vessel that I reside in until I am resurrected and my body of sin dies. This also means that by telling you I have no sin I cannot be deceiving myself and the Truth is definitely in me. Please read my articles: "The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ - His True Grace, Not the Watered Down Religious Version!" and "Was the Apostle Paul a Schizophrenic? - Romans 7:14-25", for a full explanation of what it means to be truly forgiven, sinless and living free under His glorious grace.
Now bearing all this in mind, can you now see the nonsense of trying to apply this verse to Born Again believers? This verse can only apply to those approaching the Lord Jesus Christ for the first time - potential new converts. John is using this statement to invoke or prompt repentance within the souls of these new people whom the Father may, or may not, be calling to His Son.
4) Verse 9: "IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (emphasis mine)
John says, if we confess our sins. Now when do we do that? Well we know don't we, at the time of our calling and/or at the time of our Baptism? We need to understand, too, that confession of sins is a one off event, repetitive confession of sins is not required of Born Again sons and daughters of God. Please see my article for the proof of this Biblical truth: "Is Repetitive Confession of Sins, Biblical?" Moving on, John then tells us that if we do confess our sins the Lord Jesus Christ is faithful and just to forgive us sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, not some or only part of our unrighteousness, but all our unrighteousness.
Born Again sons and daughters of God have already confessed their sins, they are now walking in The Light and The Truth is now in them, so why would John re-teach this fundamental again, is he into preaching to the converted? No. True Believers who keep on believing are cleansed of all their sins and this cleansing takes place at Baptism. This verse, as with the whole of 1 John 1, can only apply to those new to the Faith and/or non believers being called. John here is encouraging those who were hearing the message to confess their sins for the first and only time.
5) Verse 10: "IF we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and his Word is not in us."
This verse just confirms and sums up what has already been said with the added dimension of telling the new converts that if they profess to be of The Lord Jesus Christ and they say that they have not sinned they make Our Lord out to be a liar as well, and His Word and Truth is not in them. By contrast, how could this verse apply to Born Again sons and daughters of God? Quite simply, it couldn't, because those Born of God cannot sin, so this statement could only be aimed at or only apply to those being called out of this world of sin and into His glorious Light.
If you wish to learn more please e-mail me at yes2faithatyahoo.co.uk If you do wish to e-mail me please replace the 'at' with @ - thank you.
There are no contradictions in the Holy Word of God only the evil corruptions of men, within its pages, who have deliberately created them to meet the requirements of their satanic religious agendas - Charles Crosby
Revised and edited 7th September 2008