|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:5-10 A message from the Lord Jesus, the Word of life, the eternal Word, we should all gladly receive. The great God should be represented to this dark world, as pure and perfect light. As this is the nature of God, his doctrines and precepts must be such. And as his perfect happiness cannot be separated from his perfect holiness, so our happiness will be in proportion to our being made holy. To walk in darkness, is to live and act against religion. God holds no heavenly fellowship or intercourse with unholy souls. There is no truth in their profession; their practice shows its folly and falsehood. The eternal Life, the eternal Son, put on flesh and blood, and died to wash us from our sins in his own blood, and procures for us the sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite done away. While the necessity of a holy walk is insisted upon, as the effect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the opposite error of self-righteous pride is guarded against with equal care. All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice. Let us plead guilty before God, be humble, and willing to know the worst of our case. Let us honestly confess all our sins in their full extent, relying wholly on his mercy and truth through the righteousness of Christ, for a free and full forgiveness, and our deliverance from the power and practice of sin.
Verse 10. - Once more we have no mere repetition, but a fresh thought. "We have not sin" (verse 8) refers to our natural condition; "we have not sinned" (verse 10) refers to definite acts. Note the climax: we lie (verse 6); we lead ourselves utterly astray (verse 8): we make God a liar (verse 10). The whole of God's dealing with man since the Fall, especially in the Incarnation, is based on the fact of man's innate sinfulness. To deny this fact, therefore, is to charge the God of light and truth with acting and maintaining a vast and persistent lie. It is difficult to see how this strong language can be reconciled with the Roman dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary: why does not her "son" (John 19:26, 27) except her from its sweep? His word is not in us; i.e., we are cut off from all communication with him (John 5:38; John 8:31). "His Word" is the sum total of the Divine revelation. That which in itself is "the truth "(verse 8), when communicated to us is "his Word." How thoroughly the Church of England enters into the spirit of these verses (8-10) is shown by the fact that it appoints confession and absolution as part of public service every morning and evening throughout the year, as well as of every celebration of the Eucharist. As Bede points out, the Lord's Prayer itself, with the petition, "Forgive us our trespasses," is a conclusive answer to Pelagian opponents of St. John's doctrine.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
If we say that we have not sinned,.... Have never sinned, in time past as well as now; deny original sin, and that men are born in sin, but affirm they come into the world pure and holy; and assert that concupiscence is not sin; and so not regarding internal lusts and desires as sinful, only what is external, fancy they have so lived as to have been without sin: but if any of us give out such an assertion,
we make him a liar: that is, God, who in his word declares that the wicked are estranged from the womb, and go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies; that his own people are transgressors from the womb; that all have sinned and come short of his glory; and that there is none that does good, no, not one, but all are under sin, under the power and guilt of it, and become filthy by it, and so obnoxious to the wrath of God:
and his word is not in us; either Christ the Word of God, or rather the word of God which declares these things; no regard is had unto it; it "is not with us", as the Syriac and Ethiopic versions render it; it is not used and attended to as the rule and standard of truth, but is east away and despised; at least it has no place in the hearts of such, nor does it work effectually; for, was this the case, they would have other notions of themselves than that of sinless creatures. The apostle has regard either to the Gnostics, a set of heretics of this age, who fancied themselves pure, spiritual, and perfect, even in the midst of all their impurities, and notwithstanding their vicious lives; or to judaizing Christians, and it may be to the Jews themselves, who entertained such sort of notions as these of being perfect and without sin (h).
(h) Vid. T. Bab. Temura, fol. 15. 2. & Bava Kama, fol. 80. 1. T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 24. 1. &. Chagiga, fol. 77. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10. Parallel to 1Jo 1:8.
we have not sinned—referring to the commission of actual sins, even after regeneration and conversion; whereas in 1Jo 1:8, "we have no sin," refers to the present GUILT remaining (until cleansed) from the actual sins committed, and to the SIN of our corrupt old nature still adhering to us. The perfect "have … sinned" brings down the commission of sins to the present time, not merely sins committed before, but since, conversion.
we make him a liar—a gradation; 1Jo 1:6, "we lie"; 1Jo 1:8, "we deceive ourselves"; worst of all, "we make Him a liar," by denying His word that all men are sinners (compare 1Jo 5:10).
his word is not in us—"His word," which is "the truth" (1Jo 1:8), accuses us truly; by denying it we drive it from our hearts (compare Joh 5:38). Our rejection of "His word" in respect to our being sinners, implies as the consequence our rejection of His word and will revealed in the law and Gospel as a whole; for these throughout rest on the fact that we have sinned, and have sin.
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