1 John 1:8-10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Suppose the case of a man, the victim of a mortal disease, yet clinging eagerly to life: that man may find comfort from persuading himself that his complaint is but trifling and will speedily disappear; this is a false, deceitful comfort. Or he may derive comfort from knowing that, though his complaint be in itself deadly, yet he has at hand an infallible specific, in the use of which his disease will be eradicated, and his health restored. This is a true and solid comfort. It is even so in the concerns of the soul. The sinner may find comfort from trying to persuade himself that his sins, if any, are inconsiderable, and do not seriously affect the safety of the soul. This is a false and unscriptural source of comfort. Or else he may have a deep, overwhelming sense of his own vileness, of his naturally guilty, hopeless state, and yet be comforted by the assurance of God's forgiving love in Christ. This is a sure, Scriptural, and solid ground of comfort.
I. THERE IS A FALSE GROUND OF COMFORT THAT IS HERE CONDEMNED. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." While all, in so many words, allow that they are sinners, yet very many so qualify that confession as in effect to say "that they have no sin."
1. One, for example, when appealed to, says, "Oh, I know, of course, that I'm a sinner. All are sinners, but I'm not a great sinner. I am not, perhaps, what I ought to be; I have no doubt done many things that were wrong. Everyone does the same; but I have committed no sin of a gross or heinous character."
2. Others, while admitting that they are sinners — grievous sinners — yet so extenuate and explain away their sins as virtually to affirm that they "have no sin." They have done very wickedly; but then it has been through surprise, or ignorance, or the influence of others: the temptation has been so strong, and their natural weakness so great, that they were overcome; they had, however, no deliberately wicked purpose, and God will, they trust, on that ground, mercifully overlook their sins.
3. Others, again, while admitting that their sins are neither few nor trifling, yet trust that their good deeds so preponderate as that God will in His mercy overlook what they have done amiss. They open a kind of debtor and creditor account with heaven. May it not be feared that much of almsgiving, much of attendance at the house of God, and at sacraments, is to be ascribed to motives not very different from these?
II. "IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US OUR SINS." The confession here meant must be, of course, not a mere cold and formal one — the mere confession of the lip. No; it must be sincere and earnest, the unveiling of the heart to Him "to whom all hearts be open." It must, furthermore, be penitent and contrite; we must be taught to mourn over sin. We must confess our sins, then, with a sincere, penitent, believing heart; and, if so, "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But are not God's faithfulness and justice pledged to punish sin and to destroy the sinner? Yes, out of Christ it is so, but in Christ God stands to the sinner in a new covenant relationship, and He who was "faithful and just" to destroy is, in Christ, "faithful and just to forgive us our sins." God is "faithful to forgive"; for God has promised, through Christ, forgiveness to the believing penitent; and "He is faithful that promised."
(W. A. Cornwall, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.