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Is 1 John 1:9 A Bar of Soap For Christians?

Updated: May 9, 2022

First, let me just go ahead and acknowledge the controversial nature of what I am about to share with you. The topic of asking God for forgiveness after salvation is widespread. I am not aiming this at any particular church or group of individuals. This topic is one of the greater truths of The Gospel. It must be shared! Enjoy!

In today’s world of religion there seems to be a whole truck load of double-talk. You’ll hear the phrase, “Jesus forgave you of all your sins in the past, present and in the future.” when they are relaying to you God's forgiveness at salvation. Then months later you may hear the same person say something like this, “you need to ask God to forgive you for that sin you just committed.”.

In my lifetime I have heard dozens of sermons preached on why you need to confess your sins in order to be forgiven. I have heard even more sermons one why one should go to the altar and get right with God and beg His forgiveness.

The verse that is often quoted for the fact that you need to ask for forgiveness after salvation is usually, if not always, 1 John 1:9.

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.”

Allow me to just go ahead and say as a side note: it is incredibly dangerous to take passages of scripture out of context. The more we do that, the further we can get from the truth. The Gospel is not contingent or conditional based upon what we do or don’t do. When we keep a perspective of The Gospel as we read the scriptures it can illuminate the truth in a magnificent way.


What Does God Base Forgiveness On?

God has a basis upon which He is willing to forgive sin. God's forgiveness is not based upon how good we remember and confess each one of our sins. If that were true our salvation would be conditional upon our memory of sin and our ability to confess each one. I mean, what if you forget one?

The basis upon which God forgives sin is blood.

Hebrews 9:22 “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”

Jesus tells of His once for all sacrifice and the covenant that would be made in His blood. Part of this covenant was that our sins would be remembered no more. (Hebrews 10:17)

Matthew 26:28 "For this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

Under The Old Covenant the Jews would gather once a year on the day of atonement. They would offer their best lambs and sacrifices and God would cover their sins from the past year with that blood. These sacrifices did not make these people complete. They continually did this every year in order to be forgiven temporarily. (Hebrews 10:1-4)

This was a picture of what would come. The once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.

The only way God purges or cleanses sin is through a blood sacrifice. It is the only thing He will accept in payment for your sins.


A Chair

There was one piece of furniture that could not be found in the Old Testament Temple or Tabernacle. A chair was not present there. Why?

Hebrews 10:11 “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:”

God wanted them to stand as a picture of the fact that their work would never be finished. These were imperfect sacrifices under an imperfect Covenant. This Covenant is now made obsolete through The New Covenant that Jesus made. There is no more sacrifice for sins. We do not offer sacrifices for our sins.

I love this. What did Jesus do when He had offered the final sacrifice for sin?

Hebrews 10:12 "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;"

Thats right! Jesus sat down! God made a huge statement here. Our great high priest, Jesus Christ when He had offered the final sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, forever, sat down. In the words of Jesus, "It is finished."


I John 1:9

So let's get to the question of I John 1:9. Is it a daily cleansing of sins for Christians? do I need to confess my sins every day to be forgiven by God?


Here's why:

First, Jesus paid for your sins. All of them. One time. Your once-for-all forgiveness was purchased at the cross. There is nothing you can do except believing that Jesus' blood purchased your forgiveness that can cause you to be forgiven. There is no offering you can give to God that will cause Him to forgive you other than accepting His Son's death, burial and resurrection.

Second, Context with this passage is key. Let's look at the verses surrounding verse nine.

1Jo 1:8-10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

John the Apostle wrote the letter of I John mainly to correct false doctrine (I John 4:1-6). One of the things that he brings up in the very beginning is how a person is saved.

There were false teachers that had infiltrated the church and they were denying the fact that they had sin at all. This is well documented. Early Gnosticism was seeping into the church.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." What? He is clearly not addressing a believer here. To be saved, one must first understand that they have sin. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). If the truth is not in you, you are lost. He is addressing someone who is denying the savior and encouraging them to receive His once-for-all sacrifice.

"If we confess our sins... cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The word confess simply means to agree with God that you have sins. Nowhere in this verse does it say to do this daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. In fact, He says that God is faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. That means every bit of unrighteousness past, present and future.

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Is this describing a believer? No! People that deny that they have never sinned do not believe the message of The Gospel. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven. If we had never sinned, what would make His death necessary?

John is reinforcing salvation in verse nine. Nothing else. It is not a daily cleansing for Christians. There are no conditions to your forgiveness. The conditions were met in Christ. My friend, If you have believed in Jesus, you are a totally forgiven individual.


Just One Verse

Did you know that I John 1:9 is the only verse in the entire New Testament that even hints at confession for forgiveness? Every where else that our forgiveness is mentioned after the death of Christ is in the past tense. Here are some examples:

Eph 4:32 "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

Col 2:13 "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"

1Jo 2:12 "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake."


What About The Lord's Prayer?

Mat 6:12, 14 "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. ... For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:"

The context is also key in this passage. Remember, Jesus had not offered His once-for-all sacrifice. He was speaking to Jews who were still under an Old Covenant system of law. The New Testament did not begin until the death of Jesus.

Jesus, in the sermon on the mount was expressing the level of performance one would have to meet in order to gain acceptance with God. He showed them that it was impossible. This passage is part of that.

We can rest in His performance on our behalf and know that our forgiveness is once-for-all. For more on when The New Testament actually began, click the link below.

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