1 John 1:8-9 - The Verses Project

Bible 1 John 1:8-9

Posted March 06, 2017

[8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

These verses in 1 John are foundational to our understanding of the Christian practice of confession of sin. They tell us the response Christians should have toward sin in their lives and what God’s response is toward those who come to Him in faith. John gives us two scenarios that bear a common thread, namely the presence of sin. However in these two verses we find two vastly different results based on the response to that sin. Before we look at the scenarios, what exactly is sin?

What is sin?

The New City Catechism defines sin as “rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law…” Sin indeed is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and every human on the planet is guilty of it (Romans 3:23). Imagine for a moment that all the planets in our solar system were to decide to no longer orbit around the sun, but rather around themselves or some other planet of their choosing. What would this do? It would lead to death and disintegration, which is exactly what sin does in our lives! This leads us to the next question.

Do Christians still sin?

John seems to answer this pretty quickly in verse 8 in using the word “we” as well as using the present tense for “have.” John the apostle, the beloved disciple who at this point in the game was aging in years, still dealt with sin in his own life. Ironically, we find in this verse that denying the real presence of sin in our lives is actually a way of deceiving ourselves (not seeing reality as it is) and reveals a lack of relationship with God (the truth is not in us)! So yes, Christians still sin. What then are we to do with our sin?

What should Christians do with their sin?

Before Christ’s work in our lives, we were imprisoned by sin and under its dominion; we were powerless and incapable of overcoming it. Jesus on the cross, however, defeated sin in our place! Though still present, sin’s power is no longer binding like it was before. John Piper tells us that “a Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit.” Unholy acts of sin should grieve the heart of the one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. How then are Christians to fight it?

While the Bible teaches us many ways to fight sin, verse 9 teaches us to start with confession! What does it mean to confess? It means to bring those things into the light, to expose them for what they are; to be honest about our shortcomings. Confession reveals an internal discomfort with sin and a godly grief over it! King David tells us in Psalm 32 that keeping silent about sin led to his bones wasting away… The opposite action of silence is confession! Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, teaches His disciples to regularly confess our sin & trespasses to our Father. Confession is an essential piece of repentance, which involves confession as well as movement away from that sin and movement toward God! This leads us to the final question:

What does God do with our sin?

We are told that following our confession of sin, God forgives us of it, but doesn’t stop there! He proceeds to cleanse us from all unrighteousness… How does He do that? By giving us the very righteousness of His Son! Jesus is both our advocate and our propitiation (1 John 2:1-2); He’s the One who atoned for our sin and took on the wrath of God in our place!

Christian, why do you confess? Because you know that through Christ, you are met by the forgiving & cleansing God! Praise Him.


Song by Ebrooke Collective.
Produced and mixed by Adam Anglin.
Artwork by Ryan Day.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.