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Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness

The Point of 1 John 1:9

Modern Evangelicalism teaches that God forgives us of all our sins both past, present, and future.  How often have I heard evangelical pastors proclaiming that forgiveness from God means that He forgives us of all our sins both now and forevermore. Yet some of them would be quick to preach holiness, to preach that one must persevere in the faith, and that we must confess our sins.  A few will teach a radical view of eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”) to the point that even confessing of sin is not really necessary.  The rise of the hyper-grace movement over the past twenty years flows from this viewpoint.

My question then is what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  Hyper-grace teachers teach that the point of 1 John 1:9 is for unbelievers. They argue that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with New Testament followers of Christ.  The context, however, destroys such a view.  Notice John’s usage of “we” and “our” and “us” in 1 John 1 below:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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 cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The context is clear that John is not jumping from believers to unbelievers in the context.  John is writing to believers.

So let me go back to my point again: what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  If Jesus has secured our salvation and if He has died for all our sins both past, present, and future, what is the point of 1 John 1:9?

Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for the elect.  The elect’s sin were placed on Christ while He was on the cross.  Therefore, the cross secures the forgiveness of the sins of the elect.  Some Calvinists are inconsistent on this point however and teach that a person is lost, dead in their sins, and on their way to hell apart from the grace of God intervening in their lives and drawing them to salvation.  All Calvinists that I know of have a testimony of Christ saving them.  They all acknowledge that at some point in their life, the Lord opened their eyes to His grace and He caused them to be born again unto faith.

More consistent Calvinists teach that all the elect are born justified before God.  Some teach eternal justification where God looks through time and He has chosen His elect and because of His sovereignty, He knows the elect even in eternity past and thus all the elect were seen as forgiven in the mind of God through Christ Jesus.  Either way, in Calvinism, the elect have their sins forgiven in Christ and thus all their sins were in Christ when He shed His blood and thus they are justified forevermore because of the work of Christ.  Calvinists then can teach that all their sins are forgiven in Christ.

The problem then becomes the issue of holiness or even 1 John 1:9.  What is the point of 1 John 1:9 if in fact Christ has shed His blood for the elect’s sin already?  Some Calvinists simply teach that holiness is like prayer or evangelism: we simply do it because God has commanded us to do so and as His elect, we will obey Him completely.  Others teach that holiness is necessary and part of the perseverance of the saints.  Thus holiness and 1 John 1:9 are practices of perseverance.

From a biblical viewpoint, 1 John 1:9 is clear that we must confess our sins to be forgiven of them.  This plays into the very words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:12.  We confess our sins to be forgiven.  This would imply that the provision for our forgiveness is set: the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  However, we must confess our sins before God through the Lord Jesus to be forgiven.  This is the clear understanding of 1 John 1:9.  Even Calvinists acknowledge this in part.  Even John MacArthur in the MacArthur Study Bible (NASB) says that confession of sin is part of being a true Christian.  The mindset of the Christian is that we are sinners in need of a Savior because of our sins.

What then happens if 1 John 1:9 is not obeyed?  MacArthur would likely say that such a person would demonstrate they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  Others would say that nothing happens since Christ paid for our sins already on the cross.  However one looks at this, if you hold that Christ died for all our sins both past, present, and future then you would have to water down the clear meaning of 1 John 1:9.  In reality, if the Calvinist understanding of definite atonement is to be assumed, 1 John 1:9 does little to nothing for the elect.

In Arminianism, we hold that Christ died for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).  Forgiveness is based on faith in the Lord Jesus and His saving work (Romans 10:9-10).  The blood of Jesus even bought the forgiveness of false teachers though they did not trust in Him alone to secure their forgiveness (2 Peter 2:1).  Forgiveness of our sins must be through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 13:38-39).  Our forgiveness comes through Christ alone (Romans 3:22-25).  When Peter preached in Acts 2 the first gospel sermon, he didn’t preach “eternal justification” nor did he preach that their sins were already forgiven by simply trusting that Jesus had paid the price but he called them to repentance (Acts 2:38).  The message of the gospel is Jesus-focused, Jesus-filled, Jesus-centered and Jesus alone saves by His grace.  However, we must call people to repent and forsake their sins and place their saving faith in the Lord Jesus alone to save them.  The work of salvation: conviction, regeneration, being born again, etc. are the work of the Holy Spirit as He works to glorify the risen Savior (John 16:8-11).

When it comes to 1 John 1:9 in Arminianism, the Christian must obey.  The Christian must confess their sins when the Spirit of God convicts them and they must repent (2 Corinthians 7:10).  God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  1 John 1:9 is what happens after we have had our sins washed away with Christ (Romans 6:1-4).  When a person repents, their past and present sins are forgiven but their future sins remain in the future.  Their future sins must be repented of just as their past sins were (1 John 2:1).  The disciple of Jesus is thus forgiven of their sins (Ephesians 1:7) as we walk in the light of Christ and His saving work (1 John 1:7).  We must repent lest we fall into sin and perish (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 3:17).

in Revelation 2, Jesus saw the sins of the people in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5).  Jesus Himself called them to repentance as He did others in Revelation 2-3.  How could the Lord Jesus do this if He didn’t see their sins or if their future sins were already forgiven?  Why didn’t Jesus just tell them they were covered by His righteousness and they were forever forgiven?  Yet Jesus called them to repent.  In fact, He promised them things for their overcoming (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28).

1 John 1:9 is a wonderful gift from God.  What a delight to confess my sins to the Lord.  King David cried the blessings of being forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2) that comes through confession of our sins (Psalm 32:5).  The godly realize this (Psalm 32:6).  We who know the grace of God in truth (Titus 2:12), know that God is willing to forgive sinners who come before Him confessing their sins.  I rejoice when I confess my sins knowing that God has forgiven me through the work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the One who has secured my salvation and I trust in Him to pray for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).

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