Sure of forgiveness
1 John 1:5–2:2
Thanks to the Internet, it is true that there are two sides (or more) to every story. One can even find people arguing that the Earth is flat. It is difficult to be sure of anything in contemporary culture — everyone has a voice, everyone has an opinion. When those opinions are at odds, someone is probably wrong.
The author of 1 John dealt with a similar situation as the early Church faced teachers of skewed doctrine and morals. It was difficult for believers to know what was true. John reassured them of several truths, the first: people can be forgiven of their sins through Jesus.
We are forgiven when we turn from darkness to light (5–7)
Throughout the Bible light is a common symbol for God. He provides light, dwells in light and is represented by light. John gives the image a unique twist, saying plainly, “God is light.” John calls Jesus “the light of the world” (John 1:4–5; 3:19). He records Jesus claiming to be that light (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35–36, 46).
The opposite of light is darkness. Anywhere away from Jesus is darkness, but wherever Jesus is, there is light. Just as light always pushes away darkness, Jesus pushes away spiritual darkness. Therefore, anytime someone turns away from the darkness of sin and turns to Jesus, they walk in the light and their sins are forgiven (v. 7)
We are forgiven when we confess our sin (8–10)
Sin is the great spoiler of religion. Some religions teach that sin doesn’t matter or people can build up a balance sheet against sin with good works, even if it takes many lifetimes. Others teach that people can rise to a sinless, perfect state through study and meditation.
In John’s time, some false teachers said sin didn’t matter because it happened in the body and the body didn’t matter. Others taught that people could sin freely because they were forgiven. Sadly, this teaching abounds today.
John told his readers that sin is real and serious. Anyone who claims sinlessness is deceiving himself or herself at best, and lying at worst. This is true for those who deny having any sinful practices or attitudes and for those who deny responsibility for their sins, who say “the devil (or my body) made me do it.”
The truth is that we all sin, and part of the forgiveness process is to acknowledge that sin. Confession means both admitting the sin and agreeing with God that it is wrong. John assured his readers, both then and today, that confessing sin to our faithful and righteous God leads to forgiveness and cleansing.
We are forgiven when we depend on Jesus as our Advocate (2:1–2)
Sin also is a paradox of the Christian life. Everyone sins. It is part of fallen human nature. When people turn from darkness to the light of Jesus and confess their sinful natures, they are forgiven and cleansed from the guilt of their sin. More than that, they have the ability, through Jesus, not to sin in the future. Therefore, John could say he was writing “so that you may not sin.” Yet, he knew people would sin.
Fortunately, that is not a terminal problem, because we have an advocate in Jesus. He is the one who makes this all possible. He is the light to which we turn. He paid the penalty for our sin on the cross (our atoning sacrifice). He is our Advocate, by our side in the presence of God the Father.