In order to explain this passage, I will be drawing upon two papers by Gary Gulan and Andrew Spink and attempt to study the underlying greek grammar and words. You may like to read them at : http://www.beyondthepulpit.org/articles/cat_view/61-bible-book-of-1-john
I will try to summarise the findings given in both articles on this subject matter.
- 1) 1Jn 1:6-2:1 contains 6 third class conditional statements.
- – 1:6 If we say.
- – 1: 7 If we walk
- – 1: 8 If we say
- – 1: 9 If we confess
- – 1: 10 If we say
- – 2:1 If we sin
Third class conditions in the greek are words that contain the word “If” and a verb with contingency. Also, not all the third class conditions are translated in the same way depending on the accompanying verbs.
Verbs that Accompany the Third-Class Condition
Notice the two different verbs that accompany the third-class condition clauses.
1:6 “if we say” (“eipomen” second aorist subjunctive act. 1st. pl.)
1:7 “if we walk” (“peripatomen” present subjunctive 1st. pl.)
1:8 “if we say” (“eipomen” second aorist subjunctive act. 1st. pl.)
1:9 “if we confess” (“homologomen” present subjunctive act. 1st. pl.)
1:10 “if we say” (“eipomen” second aorist subjunctive act. 1st. pl)
2:1 “if we sin” (“ean”+“tis homarte”)
The aorist verbs are punctiliar or tend to look at a particular point in time whereas the present tense verbs are progressive or tend to look at continual action.
We also need to bear in mind that third class conditions assumes doubt or uncertainty. That is, a statement may or may not be true or may or may not be false.
Also to note, the word ‘Confess’ (homologomen) does not mean the same thing that we in English would take it to mean, The greek word confess comes from two Greek words, “homos” meaning alike or same, and the word, “logos”, meaning word or speech. So the actual meaning of the word is to “speak in accordance with” or “to say the same thing”
In 1:9, the word “to” is a clause and should be translated as “so that”. Whatever follows the word “to” is the result of the previous words. That is, forgiveness and cleansing are the result of God being faithful and just, and not the other way around! Also note that the word ‘forgive’ comes from the root word which means ‘to send away’ and the underlying tense shows that it is a point in time and not continually. This tense also accompanies the word ‘cleanse’ and looks at a point in time( When the believer’s sins have been nailed to the cross) and is not a continual action.
Therefore in conclusion, we need to re-examine the passage of 1Jn 1: 9 again as it has caused much confusion and controversy in the past as well as the present because of the poor translation. In essence, it says the following:
- 1) Sin is a reality that is present and indwelling in the non-believer and we cannot say we do not have sin present in our lives.
- 2) We need to say the same thing or agree on the fact of sin as God would have us to believe.
- 3) Our sins have all been dealt with at the cross and we should not be ‘confessing our sins’ again to obtain forgiveness and cleansing.
- 4) God has forgiven us of all our sins so when we do sin, we are affected or changed by it, not God. We need to acknowledge that our sins have been done away with at the cross and thank God for it.