Thursday, December 12, 2013

1 John 1:9 - Q&As

Preamble: You are strongly encouraged to read my separate article on “1 John 1:9 is for believers”.  The Q&As here serve to answer some of the pertinent questions raised concerning the interpretation of this 1 John 1:9 verse, and the surrounding text.  If you go through all the Q&As here, you will get a good picture, too, of the posture expected of us, believers, in our lives, in relation to a holy God.

1.          Some say that 1 John 1:9 was a result of this: A confused church in Asia asking the Apostle John to write a letter to help clear up some major doctrinal heresy called “Gnosticism”;  is this a correct position to take?

Ans: There is a belief that this 1 John 1 was written to counter the Gnostics who said that Jesus did not come "in the flesh," but only as a spirit, but to say that  it (1 John 1) was written to counter the Gnostics purely, it really is incorrect, for after 10 verses of 1 John 1, in the 1st verse of 1 John 2 (please note that original letter has no chapters and verses numbers), John made clear the purpose of his writing of the letter, i.e. "so that the children of God (of the targeted church) would NOT sin".  In other words, it was about how believers were to live their lives post-entry into salvation.

2.          Some say, the “light and darkness” in 1 John 1 text could simply be replaced by “saved and lost”, is that correct?

Ans: No, in my view that is NOT what light and darkness there represented. That is simply eisegesis to tie with the “once saved always saved” (OSAS) theology.

3.          What about light (in 1 John 1 text) as love?

 Ans: If light were love, then darkness in the same passage would be “hatred”; that would NOT be the truth of the matter, for verses 5-6 would be odd:

1 John 1:5-6 - 5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

Putting “love and hatred” in, we get, “….God is love; in him there is no hatred at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in hatred, we lie and do not live by the truth.”  To say that God is love, that is NOT wrong.  But to say that in God there is no hatred at all, that is NOT true!  God does hate; God hate evil and wickedness.  Prov 6:16-19 reads, “16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:  17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,  19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

4.          What then does light (in the 1 John 1 text) represent?

Ans: holiness.  So, that, vv5-6 could read like this: “….God is holiness; in him there is no evil (or wickedness) at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in evil, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

5.          Talking about the cleansing by the blood of Christ, is it once we become a believer, we are continually be cleansed by the blood of Christ, so as we can never be sinful, something like a computer virus program that auto-cleans our computer of all viruses?

Ans: My answer is no.  But let me explain: The efficacy of the blood of Jesus does run into the future, but in specific manners, NOT in all manners. 

One specific manner is this – that although Jesus died more than 2,000 years ago, and so, His blood was capable of cleansing then (at the time He died), and has continued to be available for cleansing right up to this moment, and into the future.  In other words, today someone can still appropriate the works and blood of Christ, done and shed respectively, more than 2,000 years ago.  In the years to come, a non-believer is still able to come into salvation based on it.

My “no” is to this manner:  I do NOT believe, from the moment a non-believer became a believer, the blood of Jesus has continued to cleanse him automatically, the moment he sinned, under all circumstances.  We can see in 1 John 1:7 a condition was specified - “if you walk in the light”

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

My “no” is also to this manner: I do NOT believe, from the moment a non-believer became a believer, all his sins, past (strictly, speaking there is no such thing as a present sin; it is either a sin is committed or NOT yet committed; once it is committed, it is past, if NOT yet committed, it is a future thing) and future, were forgiven him, AT THE MOMENT of entry into salvation.

There is still the expectation for a believer to ask God for forgiveness of sins he commits subsequent to his entry into salvation.

Scripture said that Jesus is the propitiation for the world; yet even for that, it is NOT automatically, everyone has been made a believer.  Generally, each has still to appropriate the salvation works of Christ Jesus.

6.          Bro. Anthony, based on your belief as expressed in the answer to Qn 5, that we have to ask God for forgiveness for sins after entry into salvation, what about sins we are NOT aware, not remembered or sins of omission, surely we are NOT expected to be able to name all sins, in our confession to God; you are asking the impossible, right?!

Ans: Let me answer by asking you back this question:  Did you name every single sin you committed in your entire life up to the point of conversion, when you entered into salvation?  The answer has to be no; and so, were you forgiven of all your sins (past sins) or NOT?  So, really what is the reasonable understanding here?  At the time of our conversion, with a right heart attitude, in our confession, we named those sins we were conscious of, then, and for the rest, we employed a “catch all” prayer. 

For conversion, I would recommend this – encourage people to name their conscious sins in their confession and ask for forgiveness, and then also ask God to forgive their all other sins. The most important thing here is the right heart attitude; even if, you just asked God to forgive you of all your sins, it would be alright, as long as your heart attitude had been right then. 

In fact, for me, it was more of I asked God to forgive me of all my sins at my conversion; and then, over the course of weeks as I prepared myself for water baptism, being sensitive to the Spirit of God, I would confess specific sins the Spirit brought to mind, over the weeks leading up to the baptism.  For example, I would be brushing my teeth, and suddenly a past sin popped up in my mind; straightaway, I would confess it, and asked God to forgive.

So, the same goes with our on-going confession of sins before God.  Daily, we confess our conscious sins; for unconscious sins, we ask God to forgive us, with a “catch all”; remembering at all times, it is the right heart attitude that is most important.

7.          Bro. Anthony, are you saying that we are NOT sure of God’s forgiveness for any sins we may commit in the future, when you said only past sins were forgiven at conversion?
Ans: What I am saying is that it was NOT stated in Scripture that God MUST; it is (1 John 1:9) God is just and faithful to forgive and cleanse us.  Heb 11:6 said that we have to believe that He exists, and rewards those who seek Him earnestly.  All believers have to have the faith that God is just and faithful (faithful is NOT equal to “He must” - see Qn 15 below).  And so, the correct posture for any believer should be “I have faith in God to be just and faithful to forgive me of any future sins that I may come to commit”, and it is NOT “God MUST forgive me, or that He had already forgiven me of all my FUTURE sins.”

8.          But what if I die before I could confess to God and ask for His forgiveness, for a sin I just committed, will I still go to Heaven to have my eternal life?

Ans: The short answer is that, I believe, God looks at the circumstances and our heart condition, and ultimately He judges or He decides.  Know what God desires, and do as He desires, and then leave Him to be God (we don’t play God).  His desire is that we be holy (state/condition/posture), and to act holy (in what we do, be holy) – 1 Pet 1:14-16.  Repentance, confession and asking for forgiveness from God, on-going, is necessary, for one to perfect holiness -  be holy and to go on to act holy.  Ultimately, it is God’s counting that matters – we are to be of hope (salvation hope) that at the end, God counts us righteous and holy, to enter into His dwelling (Heaven) to live eternally.

9.          Bro. Anthony, true repentance and confession stem from the Holy Spirit’s conviction, is it NOT; but I heard some brethren saying the Holy Spirit does NOT convict believers of sins; He convicts only the non-believers, right?

Ans: That the Holy Spirit does NOT convict the believers of sins is an incorrect teaching; the Holy Spirit can convict all, non-believers and believers, of sins. 

People who tell you that the Holy Spirit would NOT convict a believer of sins, they are of the theology of, once you have been converted, all your FUTURE sins had been forgiven of you;  the argument being the Spirit of God could NOT be still convicting you of something God had already forgiven you of. 

To me, there is no concrete scriptural support for arguing that all our FUTURE sins had been forgiven us AT THE MOMENT of our conversion.  Such OSAS (once saved always saved) proponents argue that “ALL sins” must be including the FUTURE ones; but Scripture did NOT define “ALL sins” to be inclusive of future ones, when it is referring to sins forgiveness, AT THE MOMENT of conversion.

10.       Can’t we possibly be cleansed forever, from the cleansing at conversion, that we do NOT ever need to be washed again?

Ans:  To me, we do need to be washed again, for we get dirty.  From Jesus’ words at the occasion of the Last Supper, Jesus talked about such things as one can be body-washed (cleansed at conversion), and then still needing to be washed of feet (cleansed from time to time) from contact and exposure in the fallen world that we are in.  While it is right to say, we do NOT enter into salvation or be converted again and again (we need only to be primarily justified once), we need to be forgiven of sins, by God, and be cleansed of all unrighteousness from sins, subsequent to conversion.

11.       We are told that the “we” in the 1 John 1 text, where 1 John 1:9 is found, does NOT refer to believers, but to non-believers or Gnostics; is that acceptable?

Ans: No.  Now, if we begin to treat “we” as NOT “we” but say, “you”, and vice-versa, there is no end to how Bible can be interpreted.  In fact, you will NOT be surprised that many people treated scripture commandments and exhortations as being put there for God to do or act(!), instead of having the understanding that most of these, if NOT all, were put in there, for us to do or act.  We just can’t define things anyhow we like, to suit the theology we made ourselves!

“We”, in the text, could either be (a) referring to the Apostle John and those with him, or his contemporary (those who were together with him as early disciples; eye-witnesses of Jesus was a man in the flesh), or (b) referring to John and those with him or his contemporary, and those in the same class as him, John.  The point is that this pronoun must be including the speaker or writer, himself.  In other words, “we” in the text CANNOT be referring to non-believers, for John was NOT a non-believer, but a believer.

Those who argue on this ground that the “we” in 1 John 1:9 was NOT including the author, the Apostle John, and so, could be referring to non-believers, at the exclusion of believers, are WRONG.

12.       1 John 1:10 must be referring to non-believers, right; for 1 John 3:9 (KJV) said that a believer cannot sin?

Ans:  On the contrary, 1 John 1:10 was referring to believers.  Firstly, 1 John 3:9 (KJV) does NOT mean it is impossible as in, the believer is unable (impossible) to sin; that is interpreting the verse without taking into consideration of the Apostle John’s style in his employ of superlatives. 

In essence, what 1 John 3:9 (KJV) said is that it is inconsistent or incongruent for a believer to sin, or simply, believers are NOT supposed to sin, NOT that we cannot ever sin (If we say we cannot ever sin, the truth is NOT in us {1 John 1:8}, and we are making God out to be a liar {1 John 1:10}). 

Just ask yourself (a believer), is it impossible for you to sin, or are you unable to sin?!  In fact, v10 cannot be referring to a non-believer, generally, for it is NOT expected the words of God to have a place in his heart, the non-believer (or unbeliever), in the first place; we wouldn’t say such, to a non-believer, would we, that the words of God would then have no place in his heart.  Rather it is, rightly, because we expect believers to be having God’s words in their hearts, we say such, to them, when they claimed contrary to the Word (that they have NOT sinned). When we were yet believers, we have sinned; even after we have become believers, we have sinned.  I have, have you NOT?!

13.       So, Bro Anthony, are you saying we can be “in and out of fellowship” with God, because of how we walk or live?

Ans: You may NOT be completely out of fellowship with God (although, in the extreme, I believe you can), but your fellowship with God can be poorer than what God has intended it to be, because you are NOT taking care of how you lived.

I give us a metaphor:  Let’s say you are married.  Are you in “marital fellowship” (if I may coin such a phrase) with your spouse?  The answer is yes; but can your fellowship be poorer or better, depending on your handling/mishandling, in your life with your spouse? It is yes, although you are still in marital relation (well, in the extreme, a divorce could be in the works!).  God is definitely more forbearing that your spouse, but still, it does NOT mean that you and I, can profane the grace of God. 

You cannot simply hang onto, “My spouse and I are one; and so he/she is with me”, when you commit adultery!  God is also NOT with you in your evil, despite His Holy Spirit dwells within us!  "But God is found everywhere!"  Yes, but God is NOT in evil!  If you go there - practice evil, God is NOT in fellowship with you, there.  God may go there, and out of the goodness and faithfulness of Him, snatch you back, but He is NOT in fellowship with you, there – in evil.

I give us another “shadow”:  During the time of sojourning to the Promised Land in the OT, the Jews were having the pillar of fire, as the LORD travelled with them in the night (God was in the Tabernacle, moving with them); suppose some of the Jews just ventured away from the light, wouldn’t they be lost to the darkness in the surrounding?!  They would be, if they strayed too far, and did NOT come back into the light, in good time.

God is light; so, you and I, believers, got to stay in the light. Non-believers are NOT in the light, unless they, be "brought" into the path of the light.  Only believers could stay in the light, non-believers cannot; but believers can stray away (it is NOT impossible for them to) from the light, but we must come back in.  The least we can do, is to be of humble and contrite heart, “call out” to Him to come to get us back in; before darkness (or evil or wickedness) completely engulfs us. 

14.       Are you advocating “keeping short accounts” with God; I thought we don’t need to do that, anymore?

Ans: Yes, I am advocating “keeping short accounts” with God.  Those who teach that the Bible doesn’t exhort us to keep short accounts, are perhaps, themselves smitten by lies of the dark.  It is classic, but it doesn’t mean that it is wrong; you and I need to do that.

15.       God got us into salvation, and He is faithful, isn’t He?

Ans: Yes, God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Cor 1:9), but faithfulness of God does NOT mean, no matter what, He must get our butts into Heaven!  Faithfulness is NOT “there is only one route; no choice”.  Faithfulness’ connotation is that there are possibilities, but one who is faithful stays on the course of one, unless He was overpowered-ly constrained from doing so.  It is NOT there is one route; there isn’t another; a must be.  

What can constrain God?  Only one thing and one thing only, His holiness.  If you continue to be stubbornly evil or wicked, good luck to you!  Why “good luck” (I don’t readily use the phrase), because you are going against His holiness, and betting that He would nonetheless, sovereignly, turn you around.  Scripture has this: “Do NOT test the Lord your God” (Matt 4:7).

16.       Bro Anthony, you are turning the whole faith into a “bar of soap” or a “license to sin”, aren’t you?

Ans: I thought it is the other way round; that I could say that to those who insisted on OSAS (once saved always saved)!  I tell you God is bothered with even insinuation against His holiness.  Who is insinuating against the holiness of God? 

When you insist that no matter what evil you do, God got to get your butt to Heaven, even when you are with "the so-what” attitude, that is insinuation against His holiness.  On the other hand, there is no insinuation against the holiness of God when you confess your sins and ask God for forgiveness. 

Do NOT forget, 1 John 1:9 is with a qualification, and it is this:  God has to find it, just.  On top of that, His faithfulness is constrained by His holiness.  1 John 1:9 is NOT a bar of soap or a license to sin, when embraced by believers.  Embedded in it, is a requirement to be of right heart attitude.

But at the same time, I am NOT advocating that people just need to ask God for forgiveness, and can ignore reconciling with the one (man) they have offended; you have to ask for forgiveness from the one you hurt, if it is still possible (when he has died, it is impossible); even restitution may be in order. 

On the other hand, you are standing on thin ice, if you take the attitude that, for whatever wrongs or sins you commit against another man, you only need to deal with the matter with that man, and have no need to deal with the issue that, you most likely have also wronged God.

17.       What have you got to say to this: “To teach we must confess our sins in order to be forgiven doesn’t produce changed hearts.”

Ans: There is misunderstanding, here. It is NOT we confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness to produce a changed heart!  While it can be true that a touch from the Lord can change heart, and that touch can, sometimes, take the form of our gratitude from being forgiven by God for something really bad that we have done, the process/sequence is this:
It is if we numb NOT our conscience, and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and so, when the Spirit of God convicts us of sin, we response in humility and contrite of heart to repent and confess to God we have done wrong, and ask God, in His faithfulness, to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness from the sin; and we are to believe that God is just (and faithful) to do that – forgive and cleanse us again.  The norm expected is conviction leads to change of heart, to confession (NOT the other way round).

18.       To demand confession of every sin we commit, isn’t that legalism, Bro Anthony?

Ans: In one of my earlier answer to one of the questions in connection with confession of all sins, I have explained that no legalism was expected.  We confess all conscious sins, and ask God to forgive us of them, and also, all other sins we have committed (including sins of omissions). 

People who argued against believers confessing to God and asking for forgiveness for sins committed, commonly are the same ones who would argue for you to do that confessing and asking for forgiveness from the ones (men) you hurt; now, if asking God is legalism, asking men is NOT?!  What double standard!  Common on, if I step on your toes, one time, and I have to say sorry to you, can I tell you in the face, the next time I step on your toes, “Why, you want me to say sorry (this time, also); why, you want me to practice legalism(?); I won’t do it!”

Worst still, some even argue along the line that because we ask people to do something (to confess and ask God for forgiveness), that makes the whole thing a law, and so, it cannot free us from sin!  Please-lah, we ask non-believers to do something-right (to confess Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour), on conversion, it also makes it all a law(?), and so, it cannot free people from sins?!

There is just much abuse of “legalism”, making it the strawman!

19.       Bro Anthony, I have read this statement, what do you think? – Promoting confession (to God) keeps us under the power of sin because we are consumed with thoughts of ourselves in a sincere desire to please God.

Ans: Being consumed with thoughts of ourselves in a sincere desire to please God does NOT keep us under the power of sin!  I think people really should think before they write; what contradiction this is! 

We exist to please God.  We should be consumed with thoughts of ourselves in a sincere desire to please God.  Rev 4:11 tells that we are for His pleasure or we exist to please Him - Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  Also the Apostle Paul wrote in Col 1:16: For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.

20.       Bro, Anthony, but we have also read: if we become so preoccupied with getting our fellowship right with God, as you are saying we do need to do, as opposed to others, who said, that it (the fellowship) was right all the time, and there was nothing to get right about, we would NOT have time for our relationship with other people (men), serving one another in love; what say you?

Ans: John 15:5 - “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If I may say so, many people, non-believers and believers, think they do a lot of good, but really, in God’s eyes, it may very be “you have done nothing”!  To be bearing fruit we got to be in right fellowship with God.  To love one another, what Scripture is exhorting, is we are to love one another with the love of God.  Unless, we are in right fellowship with God, how is the love of God to flow through us?!  You may be loving, but you may NOT be loving with God’s kinda love, without right fellowship with God.  

Again, there is just misunderstanding here, the process is like this: our relationships with men, and our serving one another in love, are to stem from our right fellowship with God.  To argue that our preoccupation with our fellowship with God would cause us to be NOT relating to men and serving one another in love, is making serious allegation against God, claiming he is contradicting Himself with the call to love Him with our all, and to love our neighbours with his love.

21.       What about this one – “If we are too busy keeping “short accounts”, we will NOT be able to serve our brothers in love”, Bro Anthony?

Ans: Again, this is NOT the kind of exhortation we are to dish out to believers!  Rather, more importantly, it is this:  Jesus said at the occasion of the Last Supper,  if the Apostle Peter were NOT going to have his feet washed by Him, metaphorically, to have himself (Peter) forgiven and cleansed by the Lord, he, Peter, would have no part with the Lord. 

The feet-washing was NOT particularly about humility or that we were to serve one another, although the entire symbolism of the Last Supper was on Jesus’ re-establishment of the Servanthood (unto God); it was particularly on, if you did NOT get yourself forgiven and cleansed from the filth from contact and exposure from the fallen world, you could NOT serve with and for the Lord (no part with Me!).  We have to keep short accounts if we are to be having a part with the Lord.

22.       Bro Anthony, if you will just accept it that God loves the believers, regardless, and when believers know that, their lives would change, they would love God, and they would love one another; would you stop asking believers that they should do this or that?

Ans:  A kind of well-said hypothesis!  But I have NOT seen it, in practice, to be generally true; and more true than the exegesis of the Word calling for believers to love God through resisting sins (even to the point of shedding blood – Heb 12:4), practice righteousness and perfecting holiness, including embracing 1 John 1:9, in the fear of the Lord. 

I live a country with many churches, including a few mega churches, and churches with overly grace or hypergrace theology, alongside traditional churches, but I have NOT seen, markedly, the OSAS (once saved always saved) or overly grace (hypergrace) proponent churches, love God more, love one another with the love of God, more; or are serving the Lord more.  In fact, many are so proud of their motto – the means and end of the faith is just to bask in grace; and hallelujah and do nothing, purportedly; or just do what comes to your mind, no need to “ought” or “should”, purportedly, that would be going down the slippery road of works or law!

23.       Bro Anthony, why are you so stubborn, Scripture said that Jesus said, “It is finished”; why do you still deny that?

Ans: People are making eisegesis on Jesus’ simple words of “It is finished”. 

Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; there is nothing for you to do. 

Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; all sins, past and FUTURE, are forgiven at conversion. 

Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; on conversion, you become perfect in holiness and righteousness, so perfect, that you can NEVER be non-holy or unrighteous, or that you will NEVER again to seek His righteousness (People claiming Matt 6:33 NOT speaking to believers!). 

Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; with immediate effect, you have the full mind of Christ, that you have no need to “should” or “ought”, no one need to tell you what to do, purportedly, had God wanted you to do anything, you would have known! 

Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; you cannot sin, ever again, after conversion! 

And Jesus did NOT say it is all finished; you do NOT need to repent, confess and ask for forgiveness from God, ever again!

What did Jesus say?  He said all the tasks the Father God had assigned Him to do, He had done them all; He finished His assignments.  Jesus had always claimed He was doing what the Father wanted done.  The last task was for Him to die crucified, and so, just before He breathed His last, He exclaimed, “It is finished”.

His (assignments), finished, ours, NOT yet.  To be like Christ, we, too, are to finish what we are assigned, and then we go to join our Lord, just as He has finished and went to join the Father.

The way to go - love God, have faith and work with God:

God loves us first, and we ought to love Him back.

Heb 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please God, and we who want to go to God, we must believe He exists and would reward us when we earnestly seek Him. 

That we have entered into salvation, Phil 2:12 said, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Work with God; He can give you the desire and power to do what pleases Him (Phil 2:13).   

When we love God, have faith and work with Him, we can expect, in His faithfulness, as Phil 1:6 puts it, He will bring to completion that which He has started in us. 

Don’t listen to people who tell you, you are perfected on conversion; we start with conversion or entry into salvation, and in His faithfulness, God will bring to completion that which He started in us, from conversion.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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