In verses 8–10 of chapter one John continues his discussion of sin and its disruptive influence in the life of the believer. In verses 8 and 9 we see the two alternatives: We can deny our sinfulness, which leads us self-deceived in darkness; or we confess our sins, which leads to forgiveness and purification. It is interesting to note that the if-then sequence is repeated 3 times: “if we claim” in v. 8 and 10, and “if we confess” in v. 9. One might say that it is twice as likely that we’ll claim we haven’t sinned as it is that we will admit it. Sounds like human nature does it not!
There are several points of theological interest in this short passage . One is that if we claim to be without sin (or “have not sinned” v.10) we deceive ourselves. It is a serious thing to lie to one’s self because in time we begin to believe it. This in turn affects how we look at everything from that point forward. When our mind-set has been reoriented in the wrong direction we are now one step further from truth.
Another point is that when we confess our sinfulness, God responds in two ways: he forgives and he purifies. It is not God’s desire to punish or get even, but to forgive. He is not an angry god who keeps the pressure on to break us. God is forgiveness. He wants us close. Christ died on Calvary to make it possible for the prodigal to return to love and safety. Those who don’t grasp the reality that God desires reconciliation, simply do not understand who God is. He does not want us to continue as we were; he wants us to begin to take on a family resemblance.
And that brings up the last point: If we confess our sins he will also “purify us from all unrighteousness” (v. 9). While it is theologically true to say we are purified in Christ (God sees us in his Son and therefore as perfect), it is not true that we no longer need daily cleansing and forgiveness. As all are “in Adam” so are all believers“ in Christ. The transformation from our original state to our current condition requires a relatively long period of time (among my friends no one has completed it.) The process is called sanctification and the coming completion is called glorification. When Christ comes again and we are raised we will also be totally transformed into what God desired from the beginning. What an achievement!!