Due to the length of this article, i have decided to break it into parts for your easy reading.
(Again, in order to fully understand this series of articles, please obtain a copy of the sermons so that you can appreciate and follow the articles)
To confess or not to confess, that is the question and also one of the most contentious issue of the day. However, this particular sermon does not start off by going straight into 1Jn 1:9. Rather, it starts off by confronting and attacking the idea of conditional salvation and reiterating the “Once saved, not always saved” doctrine.
Now this debate between the two sides has been raging for a long, long time and I don’t suppose my post here will do much to advance the truth of the matter. Nevertheless, this is an important issue and one that concerns nothing less than your very soul! Therefore, i will proceed very cautiously and try to dispel some of the doubts and questions that some of you may have with regards to salvation and in particular, personal and eternal salvation. Some ideas that I will be putting forth may come as a surprise to you.
My main focus and the main title of this sermon is taken from the first book of John chapters 1-2:9
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your[a] joy may be full.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
7 Brethren,[a] I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.[b] 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
The main points of Pastor Prince’s argument over 1 John are:
- 1- Chapter 1 and in particular verses 8-9, was written to non-believing Gnostics who did not believe in sin and believed that all material existence was essentially evil and only the spirit was good.
- 2- Confession of sins to receive forgiveness is therefore not for believers as this would contradict the idea of ‘Once saved always saved’ as espoused by Pastor Prince and many others.
- 3- So instead of confessing your sins, you are to confess the righteousness of God that is given to you through Christ. (This is not mentioned in the sermon but I have taken it from past sermons.) As the Christian is already saved and forgiven once and for all, there is no need to continually ask for forgiveness and cleansing.
To digress, the opponents of the “once saved, always save” (or as I like to quote the critics’ term, “Hypergrace”) doctrine would like to point out that verse 9 clearly states you need to confess your sins so that God will forgive and cleanse us. The surface rendering of this verse may seem to support this idea especially when presented as such. However, when one reads it in the context of first John, one gets the feeling that this may not be what John really is saying.
Getting back to the main points of the sermon again, I would like to put forth the following theses:
- 1- The first book of John was not written to non-believers and gnostics (although some of the verses do imply this).
- 2- Confession of sins is for believers, but NOT as a pre-requisite for obtaining forgiveness and cleansing.
- 3- Tying in to point 2 above, the believer is saved once and for all! However, when we sin, it is the believer who is changed and not God. Confessing your sins is not to seek for forgiveness again but to agree with God on the sin and to repent of it.
So let’s look at point one, is 1 John written to non-believers and gnostics? Now if you read 1John chapters 1 and 2, you can clearly see that in the context of these two chapters, John is writing to his “brethren”, his “Little children” Now the term children in the greek is teknion, which means infant or little children, an affectionate word used by John the elder. The word brethren in greek means ‘agapetos’ or beloved. Both are endearing terms used for people that John holds dearly to his heart. Also, in other parts of chapters 1 and 2, John clearly shows he is writing of things that the disciples have heard from the beginning (2: 7). So if we ignore the chapter divisions that were not in the original text, and read the entire book as a seamless whole, it will make sense to you that John is writing to his own and not to outsiders. It would be quite sad to know that 1 John is written to non-believers only.
Coming back to 1Jn 1:9, we can see that John seems to be telling the reader that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. Then again, we need to remind ourselves of the following:
- 1) There are no doctrinal contradictions in the bible. Eternal salvation is promised in many passages of the NT and they do not contradict 1Jn 1:9
- 2) Pastor Prince is only looking at the surface rendering of the verse and thus in order to reconcile the belief in eternal salvation with confession of sins, has consigned this verse to the questionable idea that John was writing specifically to non-believing Gnostics. (How this verse can be reconciled with other verses like v1-5 is quite difficult for me to understand. Would the gnostics’ joy be full after reading this?)
- 3)Verse 9 is tied in to the idea of sin consciousness which Pastor Prince strongly opposes. With the confession of sins that this verse supposes, it is quite easy to see how one can easily misinterpret it to be being reminded of sins. The verse that we will examine here will be Heb 10:2.