Thursday, 12 March 2020
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
John just said that in walking in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. As noted then, there is a difference between being forgiven and being cleansed. Through belief in Christ, man is forgiven of his sin. Further, the person forgiven by Christ, and who is now “in Christ,” is no longer imputed sin. However, there is still the fact that we have committed sin, and we continue to commit sin. John is actually dealing with both of these issues here.First, he says, “If we say that we have no sin.” A person may claim he is without sin, and he therefore does not need a Savior. Such a person denies that he has offended God through his actions, and he demonstrates that he believes he is morally pure enough to stand before God and be accepted for the life he has lived. John is speaking of such a person.
But his words go further. His words are inclusive of himself because he says, “we have.” It is true of all people. Further, it is a present verb, active voice, in the Greek. It speaks of those who are engaged in their walk at the present time. John’s words need to be taken as an all-inclusive statement. We have sinned and we continue to sin. If we say that this is not true, “we deceive ourselves.”
Here, the Greek literally reads, “we lead ourselves astray.” Whether ignorantly, or willfully, the person who says that “I do not have sin” is deluded. He has gone astray, walking onto the wrong path of deception. Further, the word “ourselves” is in the emphatic position, and it shows that people like this are not innocent victims, but have taken a lead role in deceiving themselves. Such a person calls into question the truth of God which says that “all have sinned.” It denies the need for a Savior, and it also means that even if a person acknowledges he has sinned, he can still – at some point – attain perfection and righteousness apart from the work of Christ.
But Christ is our Mediator. If we have attained sinlessness, we no longer need a Mediator. With such an attitude, John says that “the truth is not in us.” Paul says that in Christ, God is no longer imputing sins to us. The implication is that we have sin, but that God has been gracious to no longer count those sins against us.
To deny that we have sin, is to deny the goodness of God toward us in not imputing us our sins. It diminishes the work of Christ, and it brings the problem of sin in man to possibly meaning he only needs atonement for inherited sin, but not committed sin. But inherited, sin naturally and surely, leads to committed sin. Any person who is old enough and competent enough to say, “I have no sin,” is also old enough and competent enough to know that this is not true.
God is due the glory that He demonstrates towards us in His grace and mercy. To deny our sin is to deny God this rightful due.
Life application: A false teaching among some denominations is the attainment of a sinless state in this life – Wesleyan Holiness and 7th Day Adventists, among others, believe this. When confronted with this verse, they will say this is referring to our sinful state before salvation, but that once saved, we can grow in the Holy Spirit (Holiness doctrine) to a point where we can be sinless.
This is incorrect and causes detriment to congregants, because tied in with this theology is the belief that one can lose his salvation by committing sins. This type of thinking leads to bondage never intended by the New Testament writers who spoke on behalf of the risen Lord.
Think of the consequences as you contemplate this. A pastor (or the denominational teaching) explains to followers that they can become sinless. This implies that they themselves may have attained this state and are thus beyond the grasp of sin. When a congregant falls into error, the pastor (who believes himself sinless) can point to the congregant as an example of one who has lost his salvation. Suddenly human neurosis takes over this individual, and he becomes willing to do anything to “regain his salvation.” He is now in bondage to the whims of the leader or sect, living in fear of any misstep and never having the very assurance of salvation which is so clearly demonstrated in the Bible.
Because of his failure to understand the grace of God imparted at the cross of Jesus, he also fails to notice the hypocritical position of the very person who has incorrectly counseled him – a person who is no more sinless than any other person, and who is actually self-deceived.
The Bible is very clear on this point, we cannot attain a sinless state in this life, nor can we lose our salvation. Both of these doctrines lead to error and bondage. Hold fast to the grace imparted to you at the cross.
Thank You, O God, for Your wonderful grace! May we trust in Your grace to carry us through to eternal life despite ourselves, and despite our many failings. May we never be so arrogant as to assume that we have become sinless in this life. Rather, we remain dependent on Your mercy, Your abundant love, and Your promised guarantee to hold us securely in Your salvation once we have called out to Jesus. Amen.