1 John 1:8-10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.…
The apostle had said, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." But who are understood by "us"? Certainly not all men. The impenitent, and unbelieving, and ungodly, have not been cleansed from their sin.
I. CONVICTION OF SIN. "If we say that we have no sin," etc. Many will own they are sinners, and yet think they may come to God as they are, independent of Christ and His blood. They do not say so, but they act so. Listen to their prayers, and they call upon God without any mention of His Son. It is obvious they have no sense of their real position in His sight. They have not entered into the spirit of Christ's words, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." In this sense they say "they have no sin." The same may be said of their fellowship with Christ. They may think of Him as a model of perfection. But His death does not specially affect them. They attach no peculiar efficacy to the shedding of His blood. And the reason is, they have no adequate sense of their sin. So also as to fellowship with believers. They can meet them as friends, and neighbours, and brethren, but they have no perception of the communion arising out of the blood of Christ. They do not feel either its necessity or influence as a bond of union. Of all such the apostle testifies "they deceive themselves." They are deceived by an imagination of their own excellence, while in reality they are dead in sin. It is said of them farther, "the truth is not in them." Its light may be all around them, but it has never penetrated to the inner man. Such was the condition of the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:17, 18). The same admonition and counsel are applicable to all who have not an adequate idea of their sinfulness, such an idea as to make them feel that their only hope is the blood of Christ.
II. CONFESSION OF SIN. "If we confess," etc. There is a close and natural connection between conviction and confession. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." If the heart be touched by a sense of sin it cannot be restrained from pouring forth the accents of humiliation. What are the features of such confession? It is sincere, coming from the heart. It is full, no attempt being made to hide anything from God or ourselves. It is special, not satisfied with acknowledging sin generally, but noting special offences and dwelling on their aggravations. It fills the mind with grief for sin. It rouses to the hatred of it. It constrains to an immediate and total abandonment of it. It is such as was exemplified by David (Psalm 2). To such confession there is the most gracious encouragement in the text, "If we confess our sins." This is all we are required to do. We are not sent on some toilsome pilgrimage, or subjected to some round of self-mortification. We are to come to God as we are — now — and with the whole burden of our sin upon our hearts. Then God is "faithful to forgive us our sins." He has said in His Word "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." It is not presumption, therefore, to expect pardon on confession. On the contrary, it is distrust of God to doubt it. And observe the gracious yet warning words that follow, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." They are designed to meet the jealousy of the awakened soul. We are taught that God will accompany His pardon with sanctifying grace. Our plan would be to put purity first and pardon next. But God's plan is the reverse. We are to accept pardon at once, and it will be accompanied and followed by holiness.
III. HABITUAL PENITENCE FOR SIN. "If we say we have not sinned," etc. Observe the difference between this verse and the eighth. There the expression is, "if we say we have no sin"; here it is, "if we say that we have not sinned." The former describes the condition of the man who does not feel his present sinfulness, the latter of him who justifies his past conduct. The former needs to be convinced of his sinfulness, the latter to be exercised aright about his past transgressions. In the one verse there is reference to the beginning of the Divine life, in the other to the maintenance of it. The one consists in the conviction which brings the sinner to the blood of Christ for salvation, the other in the habit of penitence which must accompany him as long as he lives. Let me exhort you to cultivate this habit. Many important ends are served by it. It will keep us mindful of what we once were, and of how much we are debtors to Divine grace. It will stimulate us to devote ourselves more unreservedly to God in the future. It will promote watchfulness against temptation. It will strengthen faith. Calling to mind how graciously God dealt with us in other days, we are encouraged to trust Him to the end. It will kindle repentance. Like Ephraim of old, it will lead us to say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" It will promote holiness. It will urge perseverance.
(James Morgan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.