1 John 1:9 is a verse often misunderstood because the chapter of First John 1 is usually read in a superficial manner. As such, occasionally I have heard this verse mistakenly called the believer’s bar of soap. I believed this teaching years ago when I swallowed teachings without researching the verses for myself. Needless to say, those days are gone!
Anyway, when read in a cursory manner, not in the actual context in which it was written, 1 John 1:9 is sometimes “lifted” from the context and used as a “bar of soap,” a counterfeit sin and guilt altar. However, the counterfeit is exposed when we read throughout Scripture that there is only one sin and guilt altar, for all sin, for all mankind, for all time. That altar is Calvary.
Calvary is the bar of soap for cleansing the believer’s body of sin and guilt (John 13:10, John 19:30).
Believers are instructed to cleanse one another’s feet of dirt from the world while their bodies remain clean (James 5:16).
Jesus Christ is the ONLY bridge to God (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:25, John 14:6).
In context of the whole of Scripture, 1 John 1:9 is not at all a believer’s bar of soap. Christ confirms this for us in John 13:10 and 15:3. In fact, 1 John 1:9 is only a sinner’s or Gnostic’s bar of soap because that’s actually to whom the verse was addressed. As such, 1 John 1:9 is actually a salvation verse.
Is this information new to you? If so, this is simply reading the verse in context. We can see that it is accurate because it agrees with the facts of church history and the whole of Scripture in accordance with the original Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (not the Galatians 3 false gospel). Furthermore, taking 1 John 1:9 out of context is dangerous because it actually keeps us in bondage to sin. Yuk!
Educate yourself (Hosea 4:6) if you’re not familiar with the Scriptural and historical context of First John 1.
Here are some fun questions, facts and verses to run with:
~Confirmation bias is the tendency we have to favor information that confirms our
preconceptions regardless of whether the information is true.
~In 1 John 1 Amp., John begins, “We are writing about…” Who is “we” (v.1)? (John and his flock.)
~Why does he say (v.2), “…we declare [this] to you…” Who is “you?” (the opposing group)
~Why does John and his group (“we”) hammer on such hard-nosed eye-witness testimony about seeing Christ with their own eyes and touching Him with their own hands (v.1-3) when his disciples would already know that information? (Gnostics taught that Christ did not come physically in the body.)
~Why is John and his group (“we”) inviting the listeners to join them in the faith (v.4)? (Gnostics promoted an unrelenting false faith.)
~If you are familiar with church history, at this exact time and place the Gnostics were in and around the early church successfully spreading rumors that the “real” spiritual Jesus did not appear in the flesh at all. They also claimed that they “walked in the light” had attained “salvation” while categorically denying the reality of sin (v.8).
Why does John say, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light..?” (v. 7) (Gnostics claimed to “walk in the light” while denying Christ coming in the flesh and the reality of sin.)
~Why does John present the idea, “If we say we have no sin…” (v.8) when John’s true flock never claimed to have no sin? (Gnostics did.)
~Why does John present the idea, “If we confess our sins…” (v.9) when his true flock was saved having already confessed sin and repented unto salvation? (Gnostics refused to confess sin or admit that it existed.)
~”Confess” (homologeo in Greek) in verse 9 is the exact same verb used in the salvation verses in Acts 24:14 and 1 Timothy 6:12. The verb clearly indicates salvation.
~”Forgive” (aphiemi in Greek) is a one-time action which takes place at salvation with continual cleansing consequences, not a continued or repeated action. Christ died once for all sin for all time.
~Gnostic means knowledge or insight. Their spiritual foundation: “To know oneself is to know God.” Same as New Age today mixing in with the church.
~Gnostics used familiar lingo in their teachings, such as “higher knowledge,” “fellowship with God,” “walking in the light,” “darkness,” “salvation,” and so on. This confused and seduced believers.
~Satan used Gnosticism to attack the early church but God used it even more so to clearly define the early church.
~At this time, a passionately indignant Bishop Irenaeus wrote five detailed volumes for the church entitled, “The Destruction and Overthrow of Falsely So-Called Knowledge” to refute Gnostic heresies. Serious definition.
~Much of the New Testament is written to warn believers of these imposters called Gnostics, their varied sects and ever-changing beliefs (See Eph. 4:14, 5:3-12; Phil. 1:28, 2:3, 21, 3:19; Col. 1:16, 2:8, 10,15, 18, 2:11,14-17, 21; 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 6:20; Heb. 10:26; 1 John 2:19, 26, 3:10, 4:1-6; 2 John 7-10; Jude 1:4).
~Verse 9 begins with “if.” “If” is a supposition, a conditional word making the whole sentence conditional. As such, this verse is not a command. And if the conditionality is applied relating to something other than salvation, then both sides of the condition must apply: If confession is made by the believer, forgiveness is given and condemnation is removed. If confession is not made? Only condemnation remains. No forgiveness, no hope, no salvation. Thus, the ritual of repeated confession becomes the counterfeit means to “maintain one’s salvation” through works claiming to do what Christ had already done (“It is finished” John 19:30).
~Conditional statements (“if”) are not instructional nor are they commands in Scripture.
~1 John 1:9 must square with Romans 8:1 and the whole of Scripture (Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, etc.)? How can one “keep himself saved” if he fails to “confess sins to God” to stay saved? Rhetorical question…
~If we are guilty of one sin we are guilty of all sin (James 2:10).
~Who is the Author and Finisher of our salvation (Heb. 12:2)?
~Why does John’s address change from “we” in 1 John 1 to “My little children…” in 1 John 2? Is his audience the same in these two chapters? To whom is each addressed? Is one audience failing to believe and one believing? Gnostics (addressed in Chapter 1) did not believe. John’s little children (addressed in chapter 2) did.
~To his believing audience, who does John say is our Advocate if we do sin? (1 John 2:1)
~The “lifted” or misinterpreted version of 1 John 1:9 feeds isolationism, idolatry and a repeated sin cycle. Right where the enemy wants us.
~Legalism (Gal. 3=Jesus plus anything) erodes God’s grace and darkens the heavenly light of the original Gospel…. “We must save ourselves.”
~Scripture interprets Scripture.
~The Catholic church traditionally has taught 1 John 1:9 out of context along with teachings of purgatory, penances, praying for the dead and idolatry of Mary.
~Old Testament rituals of sacrifices and offerings of sin (in any form) no longer please God (Ps. 40:6, 103:12; Rom. 6-8; Gal. 3; Heb. 9-10).
~By imparted faith, God has already consecrated Abraham (the root), the patriarchs, the nation of Israel and all the branches of believers (Rom. 11:16).
~Christ will appear a second time not to bear sin or deal with sin but only to deliver full salvation to His own (Heb. 9:28).
~1 John 1:1-5 is a testimony of truth refuting Gnostic heresy, verses 6-10 are a definitive teaching invitational to Gnostic salvation.
~The enemies of God load themselves with guilt and are ripe for correction (Hab. 1:11).
~We are not to submit to a spirit of guilt (2 Cor. 10:5; Heb 1:3b Amp; 1 John 4:1-3, Rev. 18:2).
~Distortions of God’s Word throw us off course (Heb. 12:1-2), limit our faith, load us with heavy burdens (Matt. 11:28-30) and minimize God’s grace (Gal. 2:21).
~Altars for sin offerings (1 John 1:9 out of context) become altars for sinning (Hos. 8:11 NIV).
~The unregenerate nature cannot walk in union with God (Rom. 7:21) and reads Scripture through the eyes of a spirit of guilt (Rom. 7:24).
~Living in self-righteousness makes your own power your god. (Matt. 6:24; Rom. 10:3, Hab 1:11)
~Saints belong to God and are addressed as such (saints) in the New Testament letters (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; Phil. 1:5; Heb. 13:24).
~Sinners do not belong to God, and need salvation (Rom. 2:5-6).
~When saints sin, their feet get dirty (Rom. 14:23b). They do not turn back into sinners after Christ has cleansed them once for all (1 John 2:1-2, John 13:10, John 15:3, Acts 10:15; James 5:16, 1 John 3:3).
~One member of the body cannot clean his own feet (James 5:16).
~The body is designed to cleanse one another’s feet (James 5:16). James 5:16 is a command. Jesus gave us this model in John 13 to fulfill His command to love one another (John 13:34-35, 15:10, 12, 17) and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
~Where two or more are gathered, there I AM (Matt. 18:20, James 5:16).
~The enemy constructs false paradigms to minimize the grace of God and leave a so-called “Scriptural” opening for his spirits to bully us (2 Cor. 10:5). Our flesh works in concert with the enemy (2 Peter 3:16-18).
~Beware of taking in vain or minimizing the grace of God (2 Cor. 6:1, Gal. 2:21).
~Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:7-11). Enemy accuses of sin and condemns with guilt, shame, fear (John 5:45, 10:10; Rom. 7:1, 8:33; 1 John 3:21).
~Unbelief is the mother of all sins (Rom. 1:18).
~Flesh is offended at God’s grace and will not receive it (Rom. 7:5, 8).
~John 13:10…John 15:5…1 John 2:1-2…Romans 8:1…James 5:16
~Beware of the traditions of man (Mark 7:8, 13).
~Christ taught under the law while he was alive (Heb. 9:16, John 19:30).
~The New Covenant began at His death (Heb. 9:16, John 19:30).
Although we may be stuck in Romans 7 struggling with identity, God’s truth still stands. He says,
~We have one nature: we are the new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).
~The purpose of the law is to point out sin and drive us to the end of self-effort (Romans 5:13, 20, 6:14) and receive His grace (2 Peter 3:18).
~We are not under the law (John 5:45; Rom. 7:6).
~There is no condemnation for sin struggles (Rom. 8:1) for those in Christ.
~Christ died for our sin and our guilt (Heb. 1:3).
~Agree with God (Amos 3:3).
~Betray pride and receive His grace in the places of your soul that demand a sin and guilt altar other than Calvary (1 John 4:1-3; 2 Peter 3:16-18, 1 John 2:1,2).
If we take the time to investigate the whole of Scripture in depth and in historical context we will eventually find that a believer’s bar of soap is Christ alone (John 13:10, 1 John 2:1,2) once for all, for the whole body down to the ankles, and James 5:16 repeatedly for the feet.
Only a Gnostic’s (or unbeliever’s) bar of soap is 1 John 1:9.
When encountering illumination of Scripture, it helps to ask ourselves some objective questions to enable us to see more clearly:
What are the exact words of Scripture?
What is the meaning of each word in the original language?
What were the particular circumstances surrounding the place and time of the writing?
What do the relevant clear verses reveal about it?
What are the alternatives in applying this passage?
What would each alternative look like?
What would the consequences be for each?
Does a particular slant agree with the whole fabric of Scripture?
Is every foundation and tenet of the faith still intact?
Is it mere application that has been changed?
Does the application load the believer with guilt or strengthen him?
Does the application build the body or fragment it?
Does this application lead to freedom or bondage?
Does it lead to worshipping Christ alone or idolatry?
If I am wary of the potential change in application, why am I wary?
Am I wary of stepping out of a comfort zone?
Am I wary of leaving behind traditions of man?
Is my faith in comfort zones?
Is my faith in the traditions of man?
Is my faith truly in Christ alone?
Am I open to renouncing all idols that God reveals within my heart?
If Christ came to give freedom, then who would have the motive to keep me and the body of Christ restrained?
If this or that slant is true, God, please give me courage and open my eyes. I want to learn more and more of You and the freedom You came to give me.
Have you been cleansed once for all by Christ?
…If your flesh bursts a tantrum and clings to the lifted version of 1 John 1:9 as a sin and guilt altar, you have the need to
1) Expose your flesh (pride, false humility, performance) as contrary to the new nature, the real you. Your true identity is in the new creation, God says.
2) Study the proper historical context of 1 John 1:9 and believe it. Ask God to open your eyes.
3) Renounce all idols of sin and guilt. They march in manipulation to the beat of the lifted version and the false gospel exposed in Galatians 3.
4) Ask God to prepare your heart, expose these idols to you and reveal the new nature He has created within you. Make room in your heart to receive it!
5) Meanwhile choose one or more avenues of healing (meditation, therapy, 12 steps, etc.) to deal effectively with rigid adherence to flesh patterns of the lifted 1 John 1:9 and watch them lose their grip on you.
God will lead you into all truth!
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge
Romans 10:10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation.
1 John 1:9
If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].
Jesus said to him, Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is clean all over. And you [My disciples] are clean, but not all of you.
You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].
1 Peter 1:22
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
1 John 2:1-2
My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father—[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].
2 And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
John 15:10, 12, 17
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
12 This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.
17 These things I command you, that ye may love one another.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.
For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all; and the life that He lives, He is living to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him].
Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.
Seeing that that first [outer portion of the] tabernacle was a parable (a visible symbol or type or picture of the present age). In it gifts and sacrifices are offered, and yet are incapable of perfecting the conscience or of cleansing and renewing the inner man of the worshiper.
Let us all come forward and draw near with true (honest and sincere) hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith (by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty (evil) conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water.
To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.
But this I confess to you, however, that in accordance with the Way [of the Lord], which they call a [heretical, division-producing] sect, I worship (serve) the God of our fathers, still persuaded of the truth of and believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law [of Moses] or written in the prophets;
1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses.
Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.
Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God
Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, nor have You delight in them; You have given me the capacity to hear and obey [Your law, a more valuable service than] burnt offerings and sin offerings [which] You do not require.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Now if the first handful of dough offered as the firstfruits [Abraham and the patriarchs] is consecrated (holy), so is the whole mass [the nation of Israel]; and if the root [Abraham] is consecrated (holy), so are the branches.
And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding and calling common and unhallowed or unclean.
Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and once for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are [eagerly, constantly, and patiently] waiting for and expecting Him.
2 Corinthians 10:5
[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),
2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT
You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
1 John 4:1-3
Beloved, do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world.
2 By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source];
3 And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him]. This [nonconfession] is the [spirit] of the antichrist, [of] which you heard that it was coming, and now it is already in the world.
Then they sweep by like a wind and pass on, and they load themselves with guilt, [as do all men] whose own power is their god.
[Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]
So I find it to be a law (rule of action of my being) that when I want to do what is right and good, evil is ever present with me and I am subject to its insistent demands.
O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death?
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).
For being ignorant of the righteousness that God ascribes [which makes one acceptable to Him in word, thought, and deed] and seeking to establish a righteousness (a means of salvation) of their own, they did not obey or submit themselves to God’s righteousness.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
1 John 3:3
All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
2 Corinthians 6:1
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
1 John 3:21-24
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kil, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness
Romans 7:5, 8
5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death
8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead
Mark 7:8, 13
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.
13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Romans 5:13, 20
To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen
He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high,
Do two walk together except they make an appointment and have agreed?