God, speaking to His prophet Ezekiel about the backslidings of His people, says this:
31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
33 And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
As the Scripture says, “There is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Just as some men in the Old Testament times heard the words of the Lord, but did not do them, and just as the confession “with their mouth” was contrary to their actual walk, so it was in the Apostle’s day, so it was throughout New Testament times, and so it is today.
1John 1:8 is the one Scripture used the most by the advocates of the “sinning Christian” doctrine to try to prove that all are sinners. They will ignore everything else the Apostle John said about sin (including everything Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and James said about sin, for that matter), and always come back to 1John 1:8. An example of this can be found in The New Geneva Study Bible notes on 1John 3:4-10:
"The basic contrast between light and darkness, between
the children of God and the world, is now explained as a contrast between those
who sin and those who do not. Jesus was sinless, and what is more He came to
take away sin (v. 5; John 1:29)
John addresses this absolute aspect of being born again and speaks accordingly. He is not denying that sin and death have influence to the very end (1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 20:14). He says clearly that in this life no one can be without sin (1:8).”
There are two keys in understanding the first epistle of John. The first key is, what one says and what one actually does or walks in could be two different things. The second is, many times in the Scriptures, whenever it refers to the one that “says” it is referring to the one who is not saved and to the one who confesses but does not possess or walk in the Light. We have already quoted the example in Ezekiel 33. Here are some other examples:
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)
”He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.“ (Mark 7:6)
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in thy name? And in thy name have we not cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity [sin].” (Matthew: 7:21-23)
“…and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9)
“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie…” (Revelation 3:9)
We also see several examples of unsaved confessors in 1 John:
“If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1John 1:6)
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8)
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1John 1:10)
“He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1John 2:4)
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” (1John 2:9)
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…” (1John 4:20)
Are we beginning to see a pattern here? In fact, the only Scripture that I can find in the entirety of the Bible that does not have a negative connotation to the “one that says” is in 1John 2:6, and it is an exhortation for those who “say” to walk as He walked – “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”
The Apostle John certainly knew how “He walked.” John begins his epistle talking about the One who was from the beginning. He says that we have “seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life.” He says that the Life was manifested unto them, and that now he (John) manifested and showed that Life unto those who would see and hear. He went on to say that the message that we have heard of Him is that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”
After stating the absolute fact that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1John 1:5),” he follows with several hypothetical statements. He begins each statement with the word “If.” Strong defines “If” as:
“A conditional particle; in case that, provided, etc.; often used in connection with other particles to denote indefiniteness or uncertainty.”
These hypothetical, conditional statements do not refer to everyone, but only to those who meet the requirements of the statements.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1John 1:6)
This hypothetical, conditional statement is referring to those who profess with their mouth that they have fellowship with Him, who is Light and in Him is no darkness at all, yet they are actually walking in darkness. Paul describes the former walk of the believers at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:2-3:
“Wherein, in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conservation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
Paul establishes the fact that those who were now saved had once (in time past) walked according to the course of this world, under the power of Satan, and were controlled by the same spirit that works in those who are still the “children of disobedience.” “In times past,” they also walked in the lust of their flesh and of the mind, and were “by nature the children of wrath.” That “nature” is the “corrupt” sinful nature and the “old man” that Paul describes in Ephesians 4:22.
Peter, in 1Peter 4:3, also talks about “time past…when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” In 2 Peter 2:9,10, he talks about the unjust being punished on the “day of judgment,” and refers to them as “them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.” Jude 16, talks about those “walking after their own lusts.” Also, 2 Peter 3:3, mentions those who “walk after their own ungodly lusts.”
Note: Common thought in the modern church is that a believer of the gospel walks in and out of darkness and light, and commits sin that he needs to repent of. However, the Scriptures clearly bear out that a child of God no longer walks “according to the course of this world.” They have passed from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto the power of God. (Acts 26:18) They are no longer walking in lasciviousness and lusts; they are no longer walking “after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.” Thus they are no longer “by nature the children of wrath.” They have passed from death unto life by being born again of the Spirit of God. They no longer have the Adamic sin nature. They have put off the “old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22),” and have “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 2:24).”
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1:7)
This verse is referring not to those who “say” but to those who actually “walk” in the Light. In verse 3 of 1John 1, John states the reason why he declared what he had seen and heard – “…that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Fellowship in the Greek speaks of a partnership. It comes from a root word, which means a sharer or associate. A holy God cannot associate himself with sin. He freed and saved His people from their sins. That is why John said in verse six that those who “say” they have fellowship with him and yet their actual “walk” is in darkness, are lying and the truth is not in them. Those who walk in the Light, have fellowship with those who fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses them from all sin.
Some point out that “cleanseth” in this verse speaks of a continuing tense or a “customary present.” In this sense, it is speaking of a cleansing and a keeping throughout New Testament times in those that repent and believe the gospel, and not that one continues to need cleansing from committed sins throughout their Christian experience.
The “cleanse” in verse 9 uses a different tense and it speaks of a finished act.
Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Paul says in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Peter says in 1Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [God’s own special possession] people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
The light of the gospel shines into the heart of the sinner who repents and believes the gospel. He (now a new creation in Christ) is then placed in Christ and walks in that Light where there is no darkness at all, where there is newness of life, where he has fellowship with the Father and the Son, and where he is cleansed from all sin.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8)
This verse is referring to those who are sinners who have the Adamic sin nature. It cannot be talking about the saints of God, because the saints of God, as described earlier, are not “saying” but are “walking” in the Light where there is no darkness at all, and are in a state where they are cleansed from all sin. If one is cleansed from all sin, and cleansed from all unrighteousness (vs.9), then he cannot have the Adamic nature of sin in him. In verse 6, we see those who “say” they have fellowship with Him, yet are walking in darkness. They are lying and “do not the truth.” In verse 8, we see those who “say” they have no sin. Some of the people who “say” in verse 8 are the same people who “say” in verse 6. Their lying has caused them to be deceived.
Both Paul and John warned the believers not to be deceived as concerning sin. Paul, while listing the “works of the flesh” in Ephesians 5, gives a warning in verse 6:
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”
Also, before listing the works of the flesh in 1 Corinthians 6:9, he makes this statement:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived…”
The Apostle John also warns in 1John 3:7:
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.”
In fact, the Apostle John in 1John 3:4-10 uses some of the strongest language in the entirety of the New Testament as concerning sin, and he leaves no doubt that the child of God is not a sinner. In these verses, he is not using the word “if” and giving hypothetical “if we say” situations. He is making declarative, absolute statements.
Whosoever commits sin transgresses the law.
He was manifested to take away our sin.
In Him is no sin.
Whosoever abides in Him does not sin.
He that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.
He that commits sin is of the devil.
The purpose of Jesus’ manifested life and death was to destroy the works of the devil.
Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin because...
His seed [the redeemed] remains in Him [Christ] and they cannot sin because they are born of God.
Whosoever does not righteousness is not of God.
How much clearer can the Apostle John be as pertaining to sin and righteousness? Do not let the “sinning Christian” theologians and ministers deceive you. As Paul and John warned – Let no man deceive.
Note: In light of John’s emphatic declarations about sin and righteousness in 1 John 3:4-10, and also in light of the context of these verses in question in 1John 1, then John could not possibly be referring to the Christian in 1John1:8, because the Christian has no sin in Him. Verse 8 in sandwiched between two verses that say that He cleanses from all sin and from all unrighteousness. If He cleanses from all sin and from all unrighteousness, then there is no sin left. There is no sin nature left which causes him to commit the “works of the flesh.” The believer of the gospel is walking in the Light where there is no darkness at all; he is fellowshipping with the Father and the Son; he has the truth in Him, which is Jesus Christ; and he is not deceived.
Also note that 1John 1:8 begins with the term “If we say,” and as stated earlier, throughout the Scriptures when it refers to those that “say” it is referring to the unsaved.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)
This verse is referring to the sinner who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit as concerning sin, or to the backslider who is no longer walking in the Light and is committing the “works of the flesh.” It is the work of the Spirit that draws men to repentance and reproves the sinner in the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) The sinner submits to the Holy Spirit’s reproof, and acknowledges his sin before God in repentance, and exhibits faith toward Jesus Christ, who is then able not only to forgive (send away) his sin, but also to cleanse from all unrighteousness. This new creation, born again believer is now placed “in Christ” where there is no sin; where there is no darkness at all; where he is now abiding and walking in Heaven’s Light; where he now does righteousness because he is righteous even as He is righteous (1John 3:7); where he now loves even his enemies because he has passed from death to life (1John 3:14); where he keeps the commandments (1John 3:24); and where he is now cleansed from all sin, and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Note: This “unrighteousness” cannot be referring to unrighteousness in the child of God, because the child of God is “made righteous.” The Scriptures are talking about two different states. Once one is cleansed from all unrighteousness, he is then “made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) Paul says, “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9) The unrighteous commit the “works of the flesh,” and the “fruit unto death.” The righteous saints of God cannot commit the unrighteous “fruit unto death” and the “works of the flesh,” as long as they remain in Christ. (1 John 3:9) For a fuller study on this see A sin unto death…A sin not unto death
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1John 1:10)
This verse is similar to verse 8, with the exception that in this verse he is talking about sin as an act, not as a nature. Every man was born a sinner with a sin nature, and he then does what is natural for him – he sins. Sin has brought spiritual darkness and has separated man from fellowship with the Father. One has to acknowledge his sinful state and come to the realization that Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins, before he can come to repentance and faith in Christ.
The early Gnostics, even in the Apostle’s day, were denying their sinful condition. Part of their belief was that the body is sinful, but the Spirit man is holy. Thus, they believed that they could continue sinning in the body, and it not have any effect upon the Spirit man. This is the same lie that was spoken in the Garden of Eden by the deceiver. The deceiver told Eve that they would “not surely die” if they ate of the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:4) But, God did not and cannot lie. On the day that they committed that ONE act of sin and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they died spiritually (Genesis 2:17), they acquired a sinful nature, they were stripped of God’s glory and were cast into spiritual darkness, and all of nature and creation changed.
God still hates sin. He never changes. He sent His Son to deal with the sin problem in the heart of man. He destroyed sin and the sin nature by nailing it to His cross, and by taking it away for those that believe. He sent His Son to judge (condemn) sin in His flesh on the Cross. (Romans 8:3)
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1John 2:1)
Notice that John said “IF” any man sin, not “WHEN” you sin. The modern gospel is a gospel of “when you sin.” There is no expectation of a sinless life in Christ. They think so lightly of sin that they boldly, and some even proudly, say that all are sinners and that we sin every day. “If any man sin,” is speaking of “any” man in general, or to “any” man in relation to the whole body of Christ, and not an expectation that all believers in Christ “will” sin. Notice that in the first part of the verse he uses the words “children” and “ye,” which are both plural, and then he shifts to “any” man, which is singular. “If any man sin,” we can only go back to the Father through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He is our advocate with the Father, who cleanses us from all sin and from all unrighteousness. The glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is not the one of modern-day Christianity where a constant life of “slipping and falling” is taught and expected. It is a victorious life in Christ.
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 1:24)
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar [God’s own special possession] people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14)
“That He might present it [His church] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight - If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” (Colossians 1:21-23)
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22)
It is amazing that the modern church can twist a hypothetical statement by the beloved Apostle John and use it to support their “sinning Christian” doctrine. If we were to take their arguments at face value, then we would have to conclude that even John had sin in him, because, after all, he said “we,” and that would include even him. In fact, this is what some believe. They believe that John was saying that even he was a sinner by making that statement. Of course, we would really have to play “Twist the Bible,” to conclude this, and we would also have to ignore and/or twist everything else that John said about sin and righteousness.
Even in John’s day, there were those who were trying to deceive God’s people concerning sin, and they were in the church. John warned about the deceivers, seducers, and antichrists and said that, already at that time, there were “many antichrists.” (1John 2:18) Paul warned about false apostles, false brethren, grievous wolves, another gospel, and another Jesus. Peter warned about false prophets, and false teachers and dedicates the whole second chapter of his second epistle in describing them. And Jude warned about ungodly men that have crept into the church and were turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. And of course, Jesus himself warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing. All of those were among the church of God, and all of those looked like the real thing (Christianity), but were believing, teaching, and preaching another gospel and another Jesus, which in turn tries to deceive God’s children by moving them away from the hope and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and which produces a people who are the opposite of what Jesus died for – a people professing with their mouth that they are the children of God, but whose walk is in sin and in darkness.
Jesus’ cruel death on the Cross was not just for forgiveness. He died to destroy the sin nature in the heart of man, and to give us a new pure heart with His divine nature. He redeemed us from all iniquity. He cleansed us from all sin and from all unrighteousness. He purified unto Himself His own special possession. He made us holy through His spotless sacrifice on the Cross by His own blood. He translated us from Satan’s sinful kingdom into the holy kingdom of His dear Son, and those who are His are “in” Him, and “walk” in Him and “walk” in the Light where there is “no darkness at all.”