The Most Abused Verse in the Bible?
So have you used it yourself? Did you really think it was a sound argument? Or did you just want to end the conversation before the conviction you were feeling might work it's course?
So here's the scenario a preacher is preaching outdoors or some thing like this, maybe it is a group discussion in a smaller setting. The sinful people, as they always do, challenge holiness, the one defending God, speaks for righteous living. At which time, the question is pointed at them, Have you no sin?
If the answer is yes then the conversation would be over, but if the preacher speaks of his sins being forgiven and claims obedience to God, then comes the imaginary 'cannon'. One of the first thing that a convicted Christian professor will say is...
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”-I John 1:8
After this loud proclamation of the verse, the sinful person will look proudly, expecting to stop the conversation. Many times it may, if the minister is not seasoned enough to see this coming. The pride in the tone is enough to tell a person that this is not spoken in the Spirit of God. That aside, consider this carefully; is this intention of the writer of the verse? If not, the person using the verse wrongfully is committing a grave sin. The Bible proclaims a curse on anyone who would add or take away from it's pages¹.
When would you ever read one sentence and declare what a book is about?
This approach shows that a person was not sincerely reading, but rather, scouting for verses to use in defense. Was it the Apostle John's intention in writing this letter to defend someone's 'right' to sin? Let us start by looking at the verse above the passage quoted, and follow with the verse below it.
“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.”(v.7)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(v.9)
Upon examining these verses, we see the preacher who stands for righteousness is correct in saying that Jesus cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. If you have used I John 1:8 as an excuse maybe you should rethink this. The preaching of the Gospel is not a shield but rather a double-edged sword. It is a savour of life to those who are saved but a savour of death to the lost². When you quote one verse you are in a sense taking responsibility for the whole section. You will be accountable to the whole of the letter and on the day of judgment you will be without excuse.
Having established this, what was the intent of the Apostle John in writing this letter?
Well there are a few themes in this letter, but to stay on point with this discussion we will look at discipleship and sanctification. Warren Wiersbe in his commentary puts it another way, fellowship and sonship, noting that, “...the emphasis [of the letter] is on being born of God³.”
“The letter is a series of “tests” that the Christian may use to examine his fellowship and his sonship.”
and a little further down:
“...fellowship is a matter of light and darkness; and sonship a matter of life and death³.”
Let us look at the beginning of the letter, verse 1:3 goes as follows;
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
So here we have an eyewitness account of the fellowship spoken of by John. The same John that walked with Jesus while He was on earth is inviting his reader to join in fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit. “If we walk in the light” so the requirement for this fellowship is that we confess our sin and stand in forgiveness. This is the true purpose of the verse in question to break down pride upon initially coming to Jesus, that we would make that confession. It does not imply a perpetual state of sin, we are washed in the blood of Jesus. If we sin, we have an advocate...
Look to the next chapter to see the theme expanded, verse 4 says;
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
What does that say to you? Will you still use 1:8 as a defense?
It is my humble hope that this article will cause some to see the error of their ways. Self examination is tough, but it is necessary. We can be deceived, this is the reason true ministers stand for righteousness though it is seldom the popular stance. This true love to allow the light God has given us to shine brightly. Let it expose any worldly pleasure, there is wisdom in realizing “...the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (2:17)
Now that we see the requirement of fellowship, what of sonship?
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”(3:1)
This is sanctification to be continually washed in the blood this takes place through the fellowship of which we have been speaking. When a believer is young in the faith they need milk. but it is through this fellowship that they can begin to eat the meat of the word. This verse will continue to shed light on the walk of the faithful, taking on greater and greater meaning with each victory won.
In the beginning, one may have little confidence in the new heart that God has given us, yet as we walk this heart becomes enlarged.
Many of the disciples, that is the 70, left and followed Jesus no more⁴. As disciples we may do this, as well. We learn a little of Jesus, or a lot for that matter, yet still refuse to surrender. These are those having a form of godliness who foolishly deny the power thereof. Discipleship is good, that means you're learning of Jesus. Jesus said if you continue to learn of him you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Those that are sanctified though are sealed for the day of redemption⁵, this is what is meant as 'sonship'.
“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” (3:20,21)
It is here we can learn wisdom to discern spirits as is described in chapter 4. We also learn to walk in love without fear. We will finally come to understand why so few people in the world understand us. We will begin to see just a glimpse of what God has begun in us. This is an amazing thing and yet “eye hath not seen...⁶”.
The final point I would like to draw from this letter is this: guaranteed victory. We don't have to lose we can follow God. In every temptation we face, God provides a way of escape. It is up to us to look for that way. If you are a son of God, you are slated to overcome the world (5:5).
It is part of the new covenant God has made with you the faithful. As the Father testifies of the Son and the Son testifies of the Holy Spirit, so the Spirit bears witness hear on earth with the water and the blood. The blood of Jesus has sealed the covenant allowing the justice of God to be satisfied. That is in heaven Jesus makes intercession for you and on earth the Holy Spirit bears witness in you.
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.”(5:9)
What more could you ask for? Why would you settle for less?
When you settle, you deny in deed that Jesus came to set the captives free. Would you rather go on captivated by sin? Many do, many hear the Gospel yet refuse to taste and see that the Lord is good. Willing for anything else to be true, but, to be convicted of sin. Consider your ways, God's anger lasts but a moment but his love is eternal. Many have devised well thought-out systems all to get around the truth of pending destruction but it doesn't have to be so. Will you come to Jesus?
If so, take heed to the last verse;
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”(5:21)
I am only a brother...
Can I tell you about my elder brother Jesus?