1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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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.If we confess our sins - Pardon in the Scriptures, always supposes that there is confession, and there is no promise that it will be imparted unless a full acknowledgment has been made. Compare Psalm 51; Psalm 32:1-11;; Luke 15:18 ff; Luke 7:41 ff; Proverbs 28:13.

He is faithful - To his promises. He will do what he has assured us he will do in remitting them.

And just to forgive us our sins - The word "just" here cannot be used in a strict and proper sense, since the forgiveness of sins is never an act of justice, but is an act of mercy. If it were an act of justice it could be demanded or enforced, and that is the same as to say that it is not forgiveness, for in that case there could have been no sin to be pardoned. But the word "just" is often used in a larger sense, as denoting upright, equitable, acting properly in the circumstances of the case, etc. Compare the notes at Matthew 1:19. Here the word may be used in one of the following senses:

(1) Either as referring to his general excellence of character, or his disposition to do what is proper; that is, he is one who will act in every way as becomes God; or,

(2) that he will be just in the sense that he will be true to his promises; or that, since he has promised to pardon sinners, he will be found faithfully to adhere to those engagements; or perhaps,

(3) that he will be just to his Son in the covenant of redemption, since, now that an atonement has been made by him, and a way has been opened through his sufferings by which God can consistently pardon, and with a view and an understanding that he might and would pardon, it would be an act of injustice to him if he did not pardon those who believe on him.

Viewed in either aspect, we may have the fullest assurance that God is ready to pardon us if we exercise true repentance and faith. No one can come to God without finding him ready to do all that is appropriate for a God to do in pardoning transgressors; no one who will not, in fact, receive forgiveness if he repents, and believes, and makes confession; no one who will not find that God is just to his Son in the covenant of redemption, in pardoning and saving all who put their trust in the merits of his sacrifice.

And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness - By forgiving all that is past, treating us as if we were righteous, and ultimately by removing all the stains of guilt from the soul.

9. confess—with the lips, speaking from a contrite heart; involving also confession to our fellow men of offenses committed against them.


faithful—to His own promises; "true" to His word.

just—Not merely the mercy, but the justice or righteousness of God is set forth in the redemption of the penitent believer in Christ. God's promises of mercy, to which He is faithful, are in accordance with His justice.

to—Greek, "in order that." His forgiving us our sins and cleansing us, &c., is in furtherance of the ends of His eternal faithfulness and justice.

forgive—remitting the guilt.

cleanse—purify from all filthiness, so that henceforth we more and more become free from the presence of sin through the Spirit of sanctification (compare Heb 9:14; and above, see on [2638]1Jo 1:7).

unrighteousness—offensive to Him who "is just" or righteous; called "sin," 1Jo 1:7, because "sin is the transgression of the law," and the law is the expression of God's righteousness, so that sin is unrighteousness.

But on the contrary, if we confess our sins, if we apply ourselves to him suitably to the condition of sinners, confessing ourselves such, with that self-abasing sense of sin which may dispose us to accept and apply his offered remedy, (upon which it is implied we will do it),

he is faithful, so true to his promise,

and just, fidelity being a part of justice; or there is with him that equity and righteousness, (which sometimes signify goodness, or clemency, 1 Samuel 12:7 Psalm 112:9, and which, more strictly taken, permit him not to exact from us the satisfaction which he hath accepted in the atonement made by his Son, in his own way applied, and upon his own terms to be reckoned unto us), that he will not fail

to forgive us our sins.

And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; which may either be added as a further expression of the same thing; or may, moreover, signify his vouchsafing that purifying influence of the Spirit of Christ, (obtained also by his blood), which shall both purge away, and prevent, the defilements that would render us incapable of his own holy communion.

If we confess our sins,.... Not to one other; for though it is our duty to confess our faults to our fellow creatures and fellow Christians which are committed against them, yet are under no obligation to confess such as are more immediately against God, and which lie between him and ourselves; or at least it is sufficient to confess and acknowledge in general what sinful creatures we are, without entering into particulars; for confession of sin is to be made to God, against whom it is committed, and who only can pardon: and a man that truly confesses his sin is one that the Spirit of God has convinced of it, and has shown him its exceeding sinfulness, and filled him with a godly sorrow for it, and given him repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of; and who, under such a sight and sense of sin, and concern for it, comes and acknowledges it before the Lord, humbly imploring, for Christ's sake, his pardoning grace and mercy; and such obtain it:

he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins: forgiveness of sin here intends not the act of forgiveness, as in God, proceeding upon the bloodshed and sacrifice of Christ, which is done at once, and includes all sin, past, present, and to come; but an application of pardoning grace to a poor sensible sinner, humbled under a sense of sin, and confessing it before the Lord; and confession of sin is not the cause or condition of pardon, nor of the manifestation of it, but is descriptive of the person, and points him out, to whom God will and does make known his forgiving love; for to whomsoever he grants repentance, he gives the remission of sin; in doing of which he is faithful to his word of promise; such as in Proverbs 28:13; "and just"; in being "true", as the Arabic version adds, to his word; and showing a proper regard to the blood and sacrifice of his Son; for his blood being shed, and hereby satisfaction made to the law and justice of God, it is a righteous thing in him to justify from sin, and forgive the sinner for whom Christ has shed his blood, and not impute it to him, or punish him for it; though the word here used may answer to the Hebrew word which sometimes carries in it the notion and idea of mercy and beneficence; hence mercy to the poor is sometimes expressed by righteousness; and the righteous acts of God intend his mercies and benefits unto men; see Daniel 4:27; and so forgiveness of sin springs from the tender mercies of our God, and is both an act of justice and of mercy; of justice, with respect to the blood of Christ, and of pure grace and mercy to the pardoned sinner: the following clause,

and to cleanse us, from all unrighteousness, is but the same thing expressed in different words; for all unrighteousness is sin, and to cleanse from sin is to remove the guilt of it, by an application of the blood of Christ for pardon. The antecedent to the relative "he" in the text, is either God, who is light, and with whom the saints have fellowship; or his Son Jesus Christ, who is the nearest antecedent, and who, being truly God, has a power to forgive sin.

{6} If we confess our sins, he is {g} faithful and just to {h} forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(6) Therefore the beginning of salvation is to acknowledge our wickedness and to require pardon from him, who freely forgives all sins, because he has promised to do so and he is faithful and just.

(g) So then our salvation depends on the free promise of God, who because he is faithful and just, will perform that which he hath promised.

(h) Where then are our merits? for this is our true happiness.

1 John 1:9. Not a mere antithesis of the previous verse, but an expansion of the thought; “there follows as conclusion not merely this, that we are then true, but the incomparably greater and surprisingly glorious thought that God then proves Himself actually towards us as the True, as the πιστὸς καὶ δίκαιος” (Ebrard).

ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν] ὁμολογεῖν does not mean to recognise (Socinus: confiteri significat interiorem ac profundam suorum peccatorum agnitionem),[63] but to confess; of course it is manifest that the confession is not here spoken of as a purely outward act; still, at the same time, it is not sufficient to regard it merely as “an inward fact, which is founded on the whole internal tendency of the mind” (Neander); it is rather the real (even if not always vocal) expression of sins recognised within and confessed to oneself; here also it is the word in which the inner life has to operate.[64]

What are to be confessed are αἱ ἀμαρτίαι ἡμῶν, i.e. the sins of Christians, which are the particular manifestations of ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν (so also Braune); therefore the plural.[65]

Ebrard rightly calls attention to the fact that John here mentions, as the subject of the confession, not the abstract ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν, but ΤᾺς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς, i.e. the definite, concrete, single sins committed; “the mere confession in the abstract that we have sin would not have truth without the acknowledgment of the concrete particular sins, but would shrivel up into a mere phrase.”

πιστός ἐστι καὶ δίκαιος] It is true God is both in Himself, He does not become so only when we confess our sins; but this confession is the condition on which He actually proves Himself to us as πίστος καὶ δίκαιος.[66] These two epithets are indeed not of the same signification, but still, as their combination proves, of cognate meaning. God is called ΠΙΣΤΌς, inasmuch as He, as the promise-maker, also fulfils what He has promised, Hebrews 10:23 : ΠΙΣΤῸς Ὁ ἘΠΑΓΓΕΙΛΆΜΕΝΟς; Hebrews 11:11; especially as He accomplishes in believers the promise of blessing, which lies for them in the fact of their call, by conducting them through manifestation of His grace to the goal of their calling (according to Ewald, “inasmuch as He keeps His promise already repeatedly given in the O. T.”), 1 Corinthians 1:9 : ΠΙΣΤῸς Ὁ ΘΕΌς, ΔΙʼ ΟὟ ἘΚΛΉΘΗΤΕ ΕἸς ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑΝ ΤΟῦ ΥἹΟῦ ΑὐΤΟῦ; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:24 : ΠΙΣΤῸς Ὁ ΚΑΛῶΝ ὙΜᾶς, Ὃς ΚΑῚ ΠΟΙΉΣΕΙ; 2 Thessalonians 3:3. ΠΙΣΤΌς has this meaning here also, as results from the following ἽΝΑ Κ.Τ.Λ. Ebrard incorrectly calls the reference of the faithfulness of God here to His promises and prophecies an introduction of foreign ideas, and says “the subject here is faithfulness to the nature of truth and light, akin to His own nature, and which prevails in us, inasmuch as we confess our sins.”

God is described as ΔΊΚΑΙΟς in the N. T., inasmuch as He, for the realization of His kingdom of grace, gives to every one—without ΠΡΟΣΩΠΟΛΗΨΊΑ—what is due to him, according to the righteous judgment of God, in proportion to the position which he occupies toward God (or toward the kingdom of God), God being in this regarded as the Judge; the idea of the righteousness of God and that of His judicial activity are very closely connected; God is ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, 2 Timothy 4:8; He judges ἘΝ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝῌ, Acts 17:31 (Revelation 19:11), or ΔΙΚΑΊΩς, 1 Peter 2:23; His ΚΡΊΣΙς is a ΚΡΊΣΙς ΔΙΚΑΊΑ, 2 Thessalonians 1:5. The relation of the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ of God to His judicial activity is found throughout in the N. T., even where the former is the subject without the latter being expressly mentioned with it. As the manifestation of the ΔΙΚΑΊΑ ΚΡΊΣΙς of God consists in the righteous distribution of punishment and of blessing, it follows that ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ is referred to not only where both of these are mentioned together (as in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 seq.), but also where only one of the two is spoken of. God punishes as the δίκαιος, but He blesses also as the δίκαιος, no doubt in view of the realization of His kingdom, which depends upon the good obtaining the complete victory over the evil. Towards him who walks ἘΝ Τῷ ΣΚΌΤΕΙ, God shows Himself ΔΊΚΑΙΟς in that He ΚΑΤΑΚΡΊΝΕΙ him; towards him who walks ἘΝ Τῷ ΦΩΤΊ, by ever more and more removing from him everything that hinders his perfect ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑ ΜΕΤᾺ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ (namely, both his consciousness of guilt, and the ἈΔΙΚΊΑ which still clings to him), and by finally permitting him to inherit the perfect happiness which is prepared for those who love God (comp. 2 Timothy 4:8). Here God is called ΔΊΚΑΙΟς, inasmuch as His purpose is directed to allotting to those who, walking in light, confess their sins, that which is suitable for them, namely, the blessing mentioned in the following ἽΝΑ Κ.Τ.Λ. The meaning of ΔΊΚΑΙΟς is rightly stated by Baumgarten-Crusius, Düsterdieck, Brückner, and Braune;[67] on the other hand, it is incorrect to refer ΔΊΚΑΙΟς here to the punitive activity (Drusius: justus, quia vere punivit peccata nostra in filio suo), but also to explain it = bonis, lenis, aequus (Grotius, Lange, Carpzov, etc.), for δίκαιος never has this meaning in the N. T.; it is here of cognate meaning with ΠΙΣΤΌς,[68] because the allotment of blessing bestowed in accordance with the δικαιοσύνη of God has been promised by Him, and is accomplished according to His promise; yet it must not therefore be regarded as synonymous with it (Hornejus: = in promissis servandis integer). Following Romans 3:26, some commentators have here interpreted it = δικαιῶν; but this is so much the more unjustifiable, as that very passage by the juxtaposition of the two ideas proves their different meaning.[69] According to the Roman Catholic view, πιστός refers to the peccata mortalia, δίκαιος to the peccata venialia.[70]

ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας] ἵνα, not = “so that” (Castellio: ita Justus, ut condonet), has here (as in other passages of the N. T.) not retained strictly its idea of purpose, (hence not: “in order that”), but it states what is the aim of the divine faithfulness and justice to attain which these qualities operate on men; Luther therefore translates correctly: “that.” De Wette’s explanation, with which Braune agrees: “in the divine faithfulness lies the law or the will of forgiving sins,” is unsatisfactory, inasmuch as ἀφιέναι κ.τ.λ. is not merely the will, but the operation of the divine faithfulness and justice.

τὰς ἁμαρτίας refers back to ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας, thus: “the sins confessed by us.” The remission, i.e. the forgiveness, of sins is therefore, by virtue of the faithfulness of God, the first result of the confession; the second John describes by the words: καὶ καθαρίσῃ[71] ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. Here the first thought is not repeated epexegetically (Semler), or only in figurative manner (Lange); but the words express the same thing as the corresponding words of the 7th verse, with which the 8th and 9th verses are in closest connection (Düsterdieck, Braune; Brückner does not explain himself definitely); καθαρίζειν has here the same meaning as there, and ἀδικία (not = poena peccati, Socinus) is synonymous with ἁμαρτία; they are two different names for the same thing; comp. chap. 1 John 5:17.[72] The order in which the two clauses that express the redemptive operations of God are connected together (Myrberg: ordo verborum ponit remissionem ante abrogationem), points to the fact that purification takes place by means of forgiveness.

The context is quite decisive in favour of regarding as the subject of πιστός ἐστι κ.τ.λ. not Χριστός, but (with Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.) ὁ Θεός; for even though in 1 John 1:7 the καθαρίζειν is described as the operation of the αἷμα Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, and in chap. 1 John 2:2, . Χρ. is the subject, yet in this section ὁ Θεός is the principal subject; 1 John 1:5, ὁ Θεός; 1 John 1:6, αὐτός, even in 1 John 1:7, τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ; the blood of Christ, therefore, is regarded as the means by which God produces purification from sins. To hold, with Sander, that God and Christ together form the subject,[73] is quite as inappropriate here as in 1 John 1:5 to understand by αὐτοῦ both together. Though, with John, God and Jesus Christ approach very close to a unity, yet they are always distinguished by him, and never represented as one subject.

[63] Similarly Baumgarten-Crusius says: “ὁμολογεῖν is not exactly to confess, but to recognise, perceive, become conscious of, as opposed to the εἰπεῖν μὴ ἔχειν ἐμαρτίαν;” but it is just to εἰπεῖν that ὁμολογεῖν is exactly opposed only when it is taken in its natural signification.

[64] It is quite clear that confession to God is meant; when, however, Braune adds: “and indeed a confession so fervent and deep that it becomes public and regulated by the church,” he introduces an element which nothing here suggests. In genuine Catholic fashion a Lapide says: Quam confessionem exigit Johannes? Haeretici solam generalem quae fit Deo admittunt; Catholici etiam specialem requirunt. Respondeo: Johannem utramque exigere, generalem pro peccatis levibus, specialem pro gravibus.

Even here Socinus, Grotius (Si fatemur nos in gravibus peccatis vixisse ante notitiam evangelii), and others understand ἁμαρτίαι of sins before conversion.

[66] Semler’s interpretation is not satisfactory: “logice intelligendum est; nec enim in Deo jam demun oritur nova ratio tanti praedicati, sed in his christianis succrescit nova cognitio tantae rei.” The subject is not our perception, but the actual manifestation of God.

[67] Ewald’s explanation is unsatisfactory, according to which God is here called just because He “knows well and considers that He alone is the Creator, whilst we are His creation exposed to error and sin, and acts according to this just consideration.”

[68] In the passage Romans 3:3-5, πίστις and δικαιοσύνη are also used as cognate ideas, but even here in such a way that δικαιοσύνη has not lost its reference to the judicial activity of God; Meyer on this passage explains δικαιοσύνη, on account of the contrast with ἀδικία, generally by “justice;” but the former reference appears both in μὴ ἄδικος ὁ Θεὸς ὁ ἐπιφέρων τὴν ὀργήν, and also in ver. 6 πῶς κρινεῖ ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον.

[69] Not less inexact is it for Ebrard to say: “God manifests Himself towards as as the δίκαιος, inasmuch as He is not only just, but also makes just,” since δικαιοῦν does not mean “to make just.” His assertion is also inappropriate, that here and in Romans 1:17 to Romans 3:26, “the justice of God appears as the source in Him from which His saving, sin-forgiving, and sin-overcoming action flows.” This source is rather God’s ἀγάπη manifesting itself as χάρις towards the guilt of men; there is a reference to that in chap. 1 John 3:24 of the passage in Romans, but here the source of the salvation is not mentioned.—The interpretation of Calov: “justa est haec peccatorum remissio et ex justitia debita, sed Christo non nobis,” and that of Sander: “the Lord is just, inasmuch as He remits the sin of the sinner who appeals to the ransom paid in the blood of Christ, because it would be unjust to demand the payment twice,” introduce references into this passage which are foreign to it.

[70] Suarez: Fidelis est Deus, cum condonat poenitentibus peccata mortalia; justus, cum justis condonat venialia, quia, sc. justi per opera (!) poenitentiae, charitatis, etc., merentur de condigno hanc condonationem.

[71] The Rec. καθαρίσει corresponds to the passage Luke 22:30, where, according to the best attested Rec., ἵνα is followed both by the subjunctive first, and then by the indicative; but not to the passage John 6:40, cited by Ebrard, where the indicative is not regarded as dependent on ἵνα. On ἵνα with the indicative, comp. A. Buttmann’s Gramm. p. 202. Winer, p. 258 ff., VII. p. 271 ff.

[72] While Weiss also interprets both expressions of the forgiveness of sins, he tries to repel the reproach of tautology by saying: “If sin committed is regarded as a stain, it is quite correct that God forgives us the sin, and thus purifies us from all unrighteousness, since by the very fact that God forgives it, sin has ceased to exist before Him, and at the same time also to stain us;” true though this may be, however, it cannot serve to refute that objection, for as καθαρίζειν in this sense is not the result of ἀφιέναι, but the former consists in the latter, both clauses express only one and the same thought.

[73] In favour of conjoining Christ as the subject, Sander adduces the fact that just in the following chapter Christ is called δίκαιος; but in this he overlooks altogether the different meanings which the word has in the two passages; for in the verse before us δίκαιος is used of a relation to men, but in chap. 1 John 2:1 of the relation of Christ to the divine will; and when Sander further says that in Hebrews 9:14 it is precisely stated of Christ that He purges the consciences, this is incorrect, since τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ is the subject there just as here in ver. 7; and there even more expressly than here God is specified as the author of the purification, for the αἷμα τ. Χρ. purges, because it is offered as a sacrifice τῷ Θεῷ. Moreover, it is not meant by this that forgiveness and cleansing could not be ascribed to Christ quite as much as to God, only it does not follow from this that ὁ Χριστός is the subject here.

9. If we confess our sins] The opposite hypothesis is now taken and expanded, as in 1 John 1:7; see note there. But there is no conjunction, no ‘but’, as in 1 John 1:7; and the asyndeton is telling. Greek has such a wealth of connecting particles, that in that language asyndeton is specially remarkable. Here there is expansion and progress, not only in the second half of the verse where ‘He is faithful and righteous’ takes the place of ‘we are true’; but in the first half also; where ‘confess our sins’ takes the place of ‘say we have sin’. The latter admission costs us little: the confession of the particular sins which we have committed costs a good deal, and is a guarantee of sincerity. He who refuses to confess, may perhaps desire, but certainly does not seek forgiveness. ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13). Obviously confession to Him who is ‘faithful and righteous’, and to those ‘selves’ whom we should otherwise ‘lead astray’, is all that is meant. The passage has nothing to do with the question of confession to our fellow-men.

faithful and just] Better, faithful and righteous, to bring out the contrast with ‘unrighteousness’ and the connexion with ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1), where the same word (δίκαιος) is used. The Greek ‘and’ (καί) sometimes means ‘and yet’, and frequently does so in S. John: see on John 1:10. It is possible that it has this meaning here. ‘God is faithful (to His promises to us) and yet righteous (in hating and punishing sin)’. He keeps His promise of mercy to the penitent without losing His character for righteousness and justice. In any case beware of making ‘righteous’ a vague equivalent for ‘kind, gentle, merciful’. It means ‘just’ (which is to some extent the opposite of ‘merciful’), and affirms that God in keeping His word gives to each his due. The distinction which refers ‘faithful’ to mortal sins and ‘righteous’ to venial ones is frivolous. For ‘faithful’ in the sense of keeping promises comp. ‘He is faithful that promised’ (Hebrews 10:23); ‘She counted Him faithful who had promised’ (Hebrews 11:11): and for ‘righteous’ in the sense of giving just awards comp. ‘Righteous art Thou … because Thou didst thus judge … True and righteous are Thy judgments’ (Revelation 16:5-7).

to forgive us our sins] In spite of what some eminent scholars have said to the contrary, it is perhaps true that the Greek for these words includes to some extent the idea of intention and aim. Thus the Vulgate, fidelis est et justus, ut remittat nobis peccata nostra; and Wiclif, ‘He is feithful and just that He forgeve to us oure synnes’; and the Rhemish, ‘He is faithful and just, for to forgive us our sinnes’. In S. John we find the conviction deeply rooted that all things happen in accordance with the decrees of God: events are the results of His purposes. And this conviction influences his language: so that constructions (ἵνα) which originally indicated a purpose, and which even in late Greek do not lose this meaning entirely, are specially frequent in his writings: see on John 5:36. It is God’s decree and aim that His faithfulness and righteousness should appear in His forgiving us and cleansing us. Comp. ‘Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned … that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest’ (Psalm 51:4).

our sins] Those particular acts of sin which we have confessed, and from the punishment due for which we are thus set free. ‘I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin’ (Psalm 32:5). ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13).

and to cleanse us] This is not a repetition in different words; it is a second and distinct result of our confession: 1. We are absolved from sin’s punishment; 2. We are freed from sin’s pollution. The forgiveness is the averting of God’s wrath; the cleansing is the beginning of holiness.

1 John 1:9. Ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, if we confess our sins) This verse is placed between two antithetical sentences, as ch. 1 John 2:10. For it is antithetical to say, I have no sin, and, I have not sinned, 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10. The former is concerning the guilt of sin, which still remains; the latter is concerning the actual commission. By the former, we deceive ourselves; by the latter, we make Him a liar. It is the best plan to confess before God, who holds us guilty as sinners, 1 John 1:10; and the universal necessity of this confession is here asserted: so that John not only says, that if we have sinned we must confess; but that all have reason to say, I have sin, and I have sinned, and ought to confess that, although with different degrees: otherwise we should not need cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ.—πιστὸς, faithful) He makes good all things, which we promise ourselves respecting the goodness of God.—ἔστι, is) so that we experience it, and do not make Him a liar.—καὶ δίκαιος, and just) so as to spare the sinner, and abolish the sins. Thus also Jesus Christ is called the righteous, ch. 1 John 2:1.—ἀφῇ, to remit) while He takes away the guilt.—καθαρίσῃ, to cleanse) so that we sin no more.

Verse 9. - As in verse 7, we have the opposite hypothesis stated, and the thought advanced a stage. Not the exact opposite, "if we confess that we have sin;" but "if we confess our sins." It is easy to say, "I am a sinner;" but if confession is to have value it must state the definite acts of sin. The context ("deceive ourselves... he is faithful") shows that confession at the bar of the conscience and of God is meant. Circumstances must decide whether confession to man is required also, and this St. John neither forbids nor enjoins. Note the asyndeton; there is no δέ, as in verse 7. He is faithful and righteous, Δίκαιος must be rendered "righteous" rather than "just," to mark the contrast with unrighteousness ἀδικίτι, and the connexion with "Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 John 2:1). To forgive... to cleanse. As explained in verse 7, the one refers to freeing us from the penalties of sin, justification; the other to freeing us from its contamination, sanctification. The sense of purpose is not wholly to be surrendered. No doubt ἵνα, like other particles, becomes weakened in later Greek; but even in later classical Greek the notion of purpose is mixed up with that of consequence. Much more is this the case in the New Testament, and especially in St. John, where what seems to us to be mere result is really design; and this higher aspect of the sequence of facts is indicated by ἵνα. It is God's nature to be faithful and righteous; but it is also his purpose to exhibit these attributes towards us; and this purpose is expressed in ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν. 1 John 1:9Confess (ὁμολογῶμεν)

From ὁμός, one and the same, and λέγω, to say. Hence, primarily, to say the same thing as another, and, therefore, to admit the truth of an accusation. Compare Psalm 51:4. The exact phrase, ὁμολογεῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας confess the sins, does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Compare ἐξομολογεῖσθαι ἁμαρτίας (παραπτώματα) Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; James 5:16. See on Matthew 3:6; see on Matthew 11:25; see on Luke 22:6; see on Acts 19:18; see on James 5:16.


Note the plural, as compared with the singular, sin, in the previous verse. See note. The plural indicates that the confession is to be specific as well as general. Augustine's words are exactly to the point, but his play upon pardon and confess cannot be reproduced in English. "Vis ut ille ignoscat? Tu agnosce." Do you wish Him to forgive? Do you confess.

Faithful (πιστός)

True to His own nature and promises; keeping faith with Himself and with man. The word is applied to God as fulfilling His own promises (Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11); as fulfilling the purpose for which He has called men (1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 Corinthians 1:9); as responding with guardianship to the trust reposed in Him by men (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:19). "He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). The same term is applied to Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 2:17). God's faithfulness is here spoken of not only as essential to His own being, but as faithfulness toward us; "fidelity to that nature of truth and light, related to His own essence, which rules in us as far as we confess our sins" (Ebrard). The essence of the message of life is fellowship with God and with His children (1 John 1:3). God is light (1 John 1:5). Walking in the light we have fellowship, and the blood of Jesus is constantly applied to cleanse us from sin, which is darkness and which interrupts fellowship. If we walk in darkness we do not the truth. If we deny our sin the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, "God, by whom we were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1 Corinthians 1:9) to forgive our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and thus to restore and maintain the interrupted fellowship.

Just (δίκαιος)

Rev., righteous. From δίκη right. The term is applied both to God and to Christ. See Revelation 16:5; John 17:25; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 3:7; 1 Peter 3:18. The two words, faithful and righteous, imply each other. They unite in a true conception of God's character. God, who is absolute rightness, must be faithful to His own nature, and His righteous dealing with men who partake of that nature and walk in fellowship with Him, is simply fidelity to Himself. "Righteousness is truth passing into action" (Westcott).

To forgive (ἵνα ἀφῇ)

See John 20:23; 1 John 2:12. Primarily the word means to send away, dismiss; hence of sins, to remit, as a debt. Cleansing (1 John 1:7) contemplates the personal character of the sinner; remission, his acts. See on Matthew 6:12; see on James 5:15. To forgive is, literally, that he may forgive. On John's use of ἵνα in order that, see on John 15:13; see on John 14:31. Forgiveness answers to the essential purpose of His faithful and righteous being.

Our sins (τὰς ἁμαρτίας)

Sin is defined by John as ἀνομία, lawlessness. Compare Romans 6:19. A.V., transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). It may be regarded either as condition or as act; either with reference to the normal, divine ideal of manhood, or to an external law imposed upon man by God. Any departure from the normal ideal of man as created in God's image puts man out of true relation and harmony with his true self, and therefore with God and with his fellowman. He thus comes into false, abnormal relation with right, love, truth, and light. He walks in darkness and forfeits fellowship with God. Lawlessness is darkness, lovelessness, selfishness. This false principle takes shape in act. He doeth (ποιεῖ) or committeth sin. He doeth lawlessness (τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ; 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:8). He transgresses the words (ῥήματα, John 17:8) of God, and His commandments (ἐντολαί, 1 John 2:3) as included and expressed in His one word or message (λόγος, 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:14). Similarly the verb ἁμαρτάνειν, to sin, may signify either to be sinful (1 John 3:6), or to commit sin (1 John 1:10). Sin, regarded both as principle and act, is designated by John by the term ἁμαρτία. The principle expressed in the specific acts is ἡ ἁμαρτία (John 1:29), which occurs in this sense in Paul, but not in the Synoptists, nor in Acts. Many of the terms used for sin by other New Testament writers are wanting in John; as ἀσέβεια ungodliness (see on Jde 1:14); ἀσεβεῖν to be ungodly (2 Peter 2:6); παραβαίνειν to transgress; παράβασις transgression; παραβάτης transgressor (see on Matthew 6:14; see on James 2:11); παρανομεῖν to act contrary to the law; παρανομία breach of law (see on Acts 23:3; see on 2 Peter 2:16); παράπτωμα trespass (see on Matthew 6:14).

To cleanse

See on 1 John 1:7.


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