Forgiveness and Cleansing according to 1 John 1:9 -- By: Ed Glasscock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 166:662 (Apr 2009)
Article: Forgiveness and Cleansing according to 1 John 1:9
Author: Ed Glasscock

Forgiveness and Cleansing according to 1 John 1:9

Ed Glasscock

Ed Glasscock is Executive Director of Xdoulos Ministries, Talladega, Alabama.

First John 1:9 promises that God will forgive and cleanse all who confess their sins. The recipients, nature, extent, and application of this promise have long been debated. Does the verse offer initial salvation from sins, or is it intended for Christians who sin? What is the extent of the forgiveness and cleansing? If one is forgiven and cleansed, does this open up all avenues of ministry or do restrictions still apply as to one’s vocation in God’s service? What is the relationship between God’s forgiveness and cleansing and the responsibility of believers in dealing with a sinning saint?

For Whom Is the Provision Made?

The promise in 1 John 1:9 of forgiveness and cleansing from sin relates to Christians and not to the unsaved. As Lightner aptly states, “Since John makes it clear by the description of his readers as ‘children,’ ‘little children,’ and ‘beloved,’ application of verse 9 to nonbelievers as a means of salvation is totally without basis in fact.”1 Others, however, see John’s argument as presented to both Christians (John and his readers) and false teachers (unsaved but who boast of fellowship with God), with the apostle’s chief concern being that “all believers need to be alert to the danger of entertaining false views about sin.”2 However, John was not warning the unsaved about their denial of sin; he was addressing believers who

were taught incorrectly or were misled by their own sense of righteousness. John’s inclusion of himself (first-person verbs occur throughout 1:6-10) and his addressing his readers as “little children” (τεκνία, 2:1) certainly implies that Christians are the intended audience. The noun τεκνία is vocative neuter plural for τεκνίον, a diminutive form of the more common τέκνον. Interestingly only John in the New Testament used this late word. It occurs once in Jesus’ address to His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13:33); and all the other occurrences are in John’s first epistle. Statements in 1 John that are u...

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