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Commentary on​​ 1 John Chapter 1​​ – Forgiveness and Fellowship

Updated April 2024




Have you ever been taught something your entire life, only to​​ realize it might not be true? Ever since I can recall, I was taught by well-meaning bible teachers that Christians should continually confess their sins​​ and ask God to forgive them to remain​​ forgiven. The only verse ever cited for this teaching was​​ 1 John 1:9.​​ And​​ worse, a Christian could fall out of fellowship​​ with God​​ if​​ there was too much sin in their life,​​ although I​​ never​​ heard​​ exactly how much sin​​ that was.​​ That​​ teaching will put you on a performance treadmill and eventually wear you out!​​ After studying this verse of​​ Scripture in context, I​​ now​​ understand it differently.​​ I pray that you will be set free as you​​ grasp​​ the truth​​ of​​ Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, which provides forgiveness of sin​​ and our eternal fellowship with Him.


Background Information



No firm date can be​​ set for the time of writing​​ this letter. Possible dates range from​​ AD​​ 68 –120.




The epistle has been traditionally ascribed to John the Apostle. The author’s name, however, does not​​ appear in the letter. Yet it is plain from the tone of the letter that the writer possessed spiritual authority. Moreover, he placed himself among the eyewitnesses to the incarnate life of the Lord Jesus​​ (1 John 1:1-2). Early Christian writers,​​ including Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian,​​ cited the epistle as John’s. There is thus no good reason for denying the traditional belief that the letter is of apostolic authorship.​​ The Bible Knowledge Commentary


This​​ letter was​​ a circular letter​​ intended to be circulated among different​​ groups​​ of Christians.​​ It​​ was​​ a common practice in​​ the​​ early​​ Christian​​ church​​ for the apostles to have their letters​​ (also known as “epistles”)​​ distributed among many church groups​​ to encourage them and warn them of​​ the many​​ false teachings that were commonly shared.​​ Remember,​​ when these letters were first written, the New Testament was not completed and bound together.​​ 


There were almost certainly unbelievers, as well as false teachers,​​ among​​ these various Christian gatherings where these letters were read, just as there are today.​​ 1 John 2:18-19​​ would indicate that John was aware of such groups​​ 


Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.​​ 1 John 2:18-19



Note​​ -​​ “Antichrists” refers to anyone who is “against Christ.”​​ 1 John 2:22​​ states that the antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ or anyone who denies the Father and the Son. Antichrists were those who taught lies about who Jesus was. They would​​ undoubtedly be considered false teachers or false prophets.


False teachers have always been a concern for the body of Christ.​​ And where best for the father of lies to spread his deception than in the gatherings of Christians? Much of this letter, as with most of the New Testament, was written to refute such false teachers​​ (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:1, 3).​​ 


Every book of the New Testament, except Philemon,​​ includes warnings of false teachers.​​ No surprise,​​ false teachers have been around since the Garden of Eden!


So John warned the church (the body of Christ) about these false teachers and, more importantly, corrected​​ their errors​​ with the truth. Keep in mind that the church was in its infant stages. One can only imagine the many different beliefs that well-meaning groups were embracing. It is easy to think of these false teachers as evil​​ (and some may have been), but​​ have you ever taught or spread something you thought was true, only to find out later that it was not? I have. God is constantly revealing truth to us. As we embrace the truth, our beliefs​​ should​​ change accordingly.


The Bible Knowledge Commentary​​ states​​ ​​ 

“The readers had been confronted with false teachers, whom John called antichrists (1 John 2:18-26). The exact character of these false teachers has been much discussed. Many have thought they were Gnostics who held to a strict dualism in which spiritual and material things were sharply distinguished. Others have seen the letter as directed against Docetism, the belief that Jesus’ humanity was not real and that He only appeared to have a physical body. Often too, the letter is thought to refute the heresy of Cerinthus. According to church tradition, Cerinthus lived in Roman Asia and was strongly opposed by the Apostle John. Cerinthus taught that Jesus was only a man and that the divine Christ descended on Jesus at His baptism and left Him before the Crucifixion.”​​ 


From the​​ Holman Bible Dictionary​​ 

“Gnosticism emerged in schools of thought within the church in the early second century and soon established itself as a way of understanding Christianity in all of the church’s principal centers. The church was torn by the heated debates over the issues posed by Gnosticism. Gnostics claimed that the spiritual Christians were not responsible for what they did and could not really sin. They also believed that God would not enter into human flesh, i.e., Jesus was not really God. The Gnostics thought faith was inferior to knowledge and that the true sons of the absolute deity were saved through knowledge rather than faith.”​​ 


Chapter 1

V1- 3 -​​  1​​ What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—​​ 2​​ and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—​​ 3​​ what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may​​ have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.​​ 


V1-​​ What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—


John begins this letter similarly to how​​ he​​ started​​ his Gospel – “In the beginning was the word ...”. I believe he​​ describes​​ the same person here as in the first chapter of his Gospel, namely Jesus.


He affirms several things about this person​​ ​​ 

  • He was from the beginning

  • We heard him

  • We saw him

  • We touched him with our own hands


He then calls this person the “Word of Life.”​​ Jesus​​ was​​ also​​ referred to as the “Word” and as the “life” throughout John’s Gospel.


This would certainly be encouraging to those Christians who heard this letter. It would also serve to refute the false teachers,​​ such as the Gnostics,​​ who were teaching that Jesus did not come in human flesh.​​ John wrote these​​ first three verses to assure the church that Jesus did come in the flesh and that those who taught otherwise were not​​ teaching the truth. John also​​ emphasizes this point in the opening verses of chapter four of this letter.


1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.​​ 2​​ By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;​​ 3​​ and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.​​ 1 John 4:1-3​​ 



John’s eyewitness testimony includes at least one other person. He uses the word​​ “we”​​ in the first three verses.​​ John is likely​​ speaking of himself and the other Apostles. John​​ included others who had been with Jesus at the time of his life on earth;​​ the Apostles, being closer to Jesus than anyone else, would certainly qualify as eyewitnesses.


V2​​ –​​ and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—​​ ​​ 


The word​​ manifested​​ is from the Greek word​​ phaneroo,​​ meaning –​​ open to sight;​​ clear;​​ to make​​ visible. Again, John is​​ undoubtedly speaking of Jesus (compare​​ this​​ to, “the​​ Word became flesh”​​ ​​ (John 1:14).​​ John says to his readers that he testifies and proclaims​​ the​​ eternal life,​​ and this​​ eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.​​ 


Who was​​ with the Father?​​ – Jesus,​​ of course​​ (John 1:1). Jesus is Life​​ (John 14:6).​​ Jesus is Eternal Life​​ (1 John 5:20). John declares​​ that​​ he, as well as others, actually saw Jesus. Again, John emphasizes that Jesus came in the flesh.


V3 –​​ what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.​​ 


In the first part of the verse,​​ John reiterates what he said in the first two verses (what we have seen and heard) and then states why he is proclaiming these truths –​​ so that you too may have fellowship with us;

To​​ better​​ follow what​​ John​​ is​​ saying, we need to understand who the many​​ pronouns​​ (we, you, us)​​ are referring to in​​ this​​ verse.​​ But first,​​ let’s look at​​ what the word​​ fellowship​​ means.


The word​​ fellowship​​ comes​​ from the Greek word​​ koinonia,​​ which means –​​ 

  • to partnership,​​ Strong’s Dictionary​​ 

  • to share;​​ have​​ in common,​​ Vine’s Dictionary​​ 

  • to be in union; to be closely bound together,​​ Practical Word Studies in the New Testament​​ 


The pronouns,​​ we​​ and​​ us,​​ refer to the same people that it did in the first two verses, namely,​​ John and​​ the​​ other Christians who were eyewitnesses of Jesus in his earthly body. The pronoun​​ you​​ in​​ v3​​ refers to the person or persons John desires to see come​​ into fellowship with himself and those already in fellowship with the Father and​​ His Son​​ Jesus Christ.​​ 


Question​​ ​​ How does one share (have fellowship with) the life of Jesus?

Answer​​ –​​ By faith. By placing our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we​​ are​​ spiritually reborn. Thus,​​ we receive the​​ eternal​​ life of Jesus. Our human spirit is joined eternally with his spirit​​ (1 Cor 6:17).


Question​​ ​​ Is our fellowship with God based on our feelings or behavior?

Answer​​ –​​ No, it is based on our birth. We are​​ all​​ born in Adam,​​ separated from the life of God. We are “born-again” in Christ​​ (in union with Christ)​​ as a new creation.​​ The​​ Apostle Paul said we​​ “were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”​​ (1 Cor. 1:9).​​ This​​ is a divine calling, not based on our behavior.​​ 


God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.​​ 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NASB)​​ 


Furthermore, once in fellowship with God, we can never be out of fellowship with Him.​​ Nowhere in​​ Scripture do you see a time when a believer is “in and​​ out of fellowship” with​​ His​​ Heavenly Father​​ or​​ Jesus!​​ One of Satan’s lies is that our relationship with God is lacking something,​​ and therefore, we must “do” something to make it complete​​ (See​​ Genesis 3:1-6​​ – eat from the forbidden tree). Satan loves to keep us on a “performance treadmill” because he knows it will not produce life and will eventually wear us out.


Question​​ –​​ Can we move in and out of fellowship with another Christian?

Answer​​ –​​ No. If we share in the life of Christ, then we have been born-again; we are members of the body of Christ. That can never change. We may get mad at other Christians and choose not to associate with them, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still share in common (fellowship) the life of Jesus!


So​​ John is proclaiming these truths so that someone or​​ perhaps​​ a group of people might also have fellowship with him and his fellow Christians.​​ 


But I thought​​ John was writing this​​ letter to​​ Christians.​​ Yes,​​ he​​ was, but as we said, there were false teachers and non-Christians in most​​ early church gatherings, just as there are today.​​ Remember,​​ these letters were circulated to many​​ different​​ groups of Christians. There was no way to know who might​​ hear​​ these words​​ in​​ these​​ various​​ groups. Compare​​ this​​ to today’s church meetings,​​ where the gospel message is​​ regularly proclaimed. I grew up attending church meetings​​ where​​ the pastor gave an​​ invitation to receive Christ at the end of every service!​​ If church meetings​​ were​​ only comprised of Christians, why present the gospel message every Sunday?​​ The obvious answer is that many non-Christians also attend church meetings regularly.


So,​​ the​​ phrase,​​ you too​​ in​​ v3​​ must be addressing an individual or a group of non-Christians. John desired to preach the truth so that all could​​ have fellowship​​ with​​ the life of Jesus Christ!


V4 -​​  These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.


What​​ things​​ is John talking about?​​ He is talking about eternal life in Jesus and subsequent fellowship with other Christians,​​ God,​​ and His Son Jesus.​​ 


Why?​​ –​​ Seeing others receive the life of Jesus is truly a joyful occasion. Joy is​​ a​​ fruit of the Holy Spirit. Since only Christians have the Holy Spirit, they are the only ones who can experience​​ true​​ joy. John spent much of his life telling others and writing about the life of Jesus. In my experience, nothing gives you more joy than seeing​​ someone​​ come to know​​ Jesus​​ except personally knowing​​ Him.


Note –​​ In this verse, some manuscripts have the word “your” joy rather than “our” joy. The​​ Apostle John expressed the same desire in his gospel message​​ ​​ John 15:11,​​ as did Jesus​​ -​​ John 16:24.


V5-7​​ -​​ 5​​ This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.​​ 6​​ If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;​​ 7​​ but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.​​ 


V5 –​​ This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all​​ 


John now proclaims what he heard from God. –​​ God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.​​ 


Have you ever thought about light and darkness?​​ Darkness is simply the absence of light. You can bring light into a dark room, which​​ immediately ceases to be dark.​​ 


But can you bring darkness into a lighted room and make it dark?​​ Obviously not.​​ 


How can a lighted room become dark?​​ - Only by removing the light. So light and darkness cannot co-exist in the same place. Likewise, God, who is light, cannot contain any darkness.


In the very beginning of creation,​​ God declared the light to be good,​​ and he separated it from the darkness​​ (Gen. 1:4).​​ 


In the Bible,​​ light and darkness are used to symbolize opposites. For example –




One who is spiritually alive

One who is spiritually dead​​ (1 Peter 2:9)


Evil​​ (John 3:19)


Sin, Lawlessness​​ (2 Cor 6:14)

Jesus or God

Dominion of Satan​​ (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13)


Lie​​ (John 3:21)


Covers/hides​​ (1 Cor 4:5; Eph. 5:13)


Death​​ (Mat. 4:16; John 8:12)


In almost every instance where light and darkness are contrasted in the​​ New Testament, light refers to those who are spiritually alive,​​ and darkness refers to those who are spiritually dead​​ (separated from the life of God). In this first chapter, John uses the words “light” and “darkness”​​ in this same manner.


To be “in the light” is to be spiritually reborn (to have the life of Christ); it is to be “in Christ”​​ (in union with Christ).​​ It​​ becomes your spiritual identity. It does not refer simply to one’s behavior. Conversely, to be “in darkness” is to be spiritually dead (separated from the life of God) and,​​ again, does not refer to one’s behavior. Don’t think “behavior” when you read “in the light” or “in darkness”; to do so would cause you to misunderstand what John was trying to say in this first chapter. It is impossible to be “in the light”​​ (identity), then commit some act of sin​​ (behavior),​​ and suddenly be “in darkness”​​ (identity).​​ It is our birth, not our behavior,​​ that​​ determines​​ our spiritual identity.​​ (aren't you glad?).​​ Amen!


Consider the following verses:


to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.​​ Acts 26:18​​ 

for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light”​​ ​​ Eph. 5:8​​ 

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,​​ Col. 1:13​​ 

 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;​​ 1 Thess. 5:5​​ 


V6​​ –​​ If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth


John continues his discussion about fellowship (sharing in common). He says that​​ if we say​​ that​​ we have fellowship​​ with God but are​​ walking​​ (living our life)​​ in darkness​​ (spiritually dead, lost, or unsaved), then​​ we lie and do not practice the truth. Some would say​​ that because John starts this verse with the words​​ If we say,​​ he could only be referring to​​ himself and other​​ Christians.​​ Do not assume this.


Explanation​​ ​​ 

“if”​​ – a preposition which identifies a third-class conditional clause. It means that what follows may or may not be true, i.e., there is uncertainty as to the reality of the issue.​​ 


If we say​​ is a deliberative subjunctive, proposing a hypothetical case. John puts the case as a supposition, not an assumed fact. He deals gently and humbly with his readers, including himself in the statement. This hypothetical person claims that he is having fellowship with God.​​ -​​ Word Studies in the Greek New Testament


walk​​ – used figuratively, "signifying the whole round of the activities of the individual life,”​​ Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words

walk​​ - figuratively -​​ to​​ live;​​ Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

lie​​ -​​ to​​ utter an untruth​​ or attempt to​​ deceive​​ by falsehood.​​ Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary


Remember, John​​ warns​​ the church about false teachers throughout this letter. He is saying here in​​ v6​​ that​​ if​​ we say​​ that​​ we have fellowship​​ (share in the life of Jesus) and​​ yet walk in​​ the​​ darkness​​ (are spiritually dead), we are not speaking nor acting in the truth (as​​ some of the false teachers were doing). It is impossible for​​ a person​​ in fellowship with God to walk in​​ darkness. You cannot share (fellowship) in the life of Jesus and be spiritually dead (in darkness).


Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."​​ John 8:12​​ 

"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.​​ John 12:46​​ 


V7-​​ but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.​​ 


John​​ proposes another conditional hypothetical​​ statement​​ -​​ if we walk in the light​​ (spiritually alive), as God​​ himself is in the light,​​ we​​ have fellowship with one another.​​ Anyone who has fellowship with God​​ is​​ a member of the body of Christ. All members of the body of Christ also have fellowship (share in common)​​ with​​ the life of Christ with one another.​​ 


In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.​​ John 1:4​​ 


This fellowship is only possible through the blood/death​​ of Jesus,​​ which cleanses us from all sin​​ when we place our​​ faith in​​ Jesus and​​ his​​ finished​​ redemptive work.


Question -​​ What does it mean to be​​ “cleansed” from all sin?​​ 

In the Old Testament,​​ we see the Israelites, for various reasons, becoming defiled​​ and, thus,​​ declared​​ unclean. This​​ is​​ a picture of how​​ all​​ men​​ are​​ spiritually​​ defiled​​ from birth​​ and, therefore,​​ separated from​​ God.​​ God​​ gave the​​ Israelites​​ the Mosaic​​ Law​​ that​​ stated​​ specific​​ requirements for how​​ to be cleansed.​​ In short, cleansing was done through​​ sacrifices and​​ ceremonial rituals​​ (See​​ Leviticus and​​ Numbers​​ for details).​​ After​​ these​​ requirements were met, the​​ priest​​ could​​ declare the unclean person​​ to be clean​​ (Lev.​​ 13:13).​​ However, these​​ rituals​​ brought​​ only​​ an​​ outward cleansing.​​ The​​ Old Covenant​​ (Mosaic​​ Law)​​ focused on external behavior​​ and​​ could never​​ remove the sin that defiled a person and​​ kept him apart​​ from God.​​ Moreover, the Old Covenant​​ was​​ only​​ a picture or a shadow of​​ a​​ better covenant that was coming​​ (Heb. 7:22;​​ Heb. 8:6; Heb. 10:1-4).


so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.​​ Hebrews 7:22 (NASB)​​ See also Heb. 8:6​​ and Heb. 10:1-4


God initiated a​​ new covenant by the blood/death​​ of Jesus​​ (all the covenants involving God were initiated by blood).​​ Unlike the blood of bulls and goats that were sacrificed repeatedly by the Old Covenant priests,​​ Jesus, our great high priest (Heb. 4:14),​​ shed​​ His blood and died​​ once and for all.​​ The sacrifice of Jesus provided​​ permanent​​ forgiveness and cleansing​​ from​​ all​​ sin, past, present, and future.​​ That’s why Jesus said while on the cross​​ ​​ 

“IT IS FINISHED!”​​ (John 19:30)

Consider the following verses​​ ​​ Rom. 6:10;​​ Heb. 7:26-27;​​ Heb. 9:11-14; Heb. 10:10​​ 


Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.​​ Rom.​​ 8:1​​ 

We will never be separated from God again!


38​​  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,​​ 39​​  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.​​ Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)


In addition,​​ the blood/death of Jesus provided​​ freedom from​​ the power of​​ sin​​ (Rom. 6).​​ Now,​​ we can have a clear conscience, knowing that we​​ have been​​ forgiven​​ and cleansed​​ once and for all​​ and are​​ unconditionally accepted and loved​​ forever.​​ 


Note -​​ sin​​ here in​​ v7​​ is a noun.,​​ We​​ most often​​ think of sin as a verb, i.e., an action performed. For example, “I told a lie;​​ thus,​​ I committed an act of sin.”​​ When​​ sin​​ is used as a noun, it​​ refers to a power or a force that seeks to control us.​​ To better understand​​ sin​​ used as a noun, please read​​ The Controlling Power of Sin​​ on this website.​​ 



Question -​​ If the blood of Jesus cleanses us from​​ all​​ sin, when did the cleansing occur?​​ 

Answer -​​ Since​​ Jesus​​ only shed his blood​​ and died​​ one time, it had to occur at the cross.​​ 

If​​ His blood/death​​ was sufficient to cleanse us from ALL sin, why would we need to be cleansed every time we sinned?​​ To believe we need “ongoing​​ cleansing and​​ forgiveness”​​ thoroughly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the New Covenant, particularly​​ the Gospel message!​​ Only an unbeliever​​ (in darkness) needs to be cleansed from all sin.​​ Once cleansed, we are clean forever!


To summarize​​ V6-7- It is impossible for anyone to have fellowship with God if he has not received​​ new​​ life​​ in Christ​​ Jesus. This person is “in darkness.”​​ It is also impossible for someone spiritually reborn not to have fellowship with God.​​ Fellowship with God is based on one’s spiritual condition.​​ If you have been spiritually reborn, you ARE in fellowship with God. When we are spiritually reborn,​​ we are “in Christ”​​ (in union with​​ Christ -​​ Rom. 6), and therefore, “in the light” because Christ is the light.​​ Fellowship with God is not based on our behavior​​ but on​​ our birth.​​ 


Anyone who has fellowship with God​​ also has fellowship with other Christians because our fellowship is the life of Jesus Christ! Christians cannot have fellowship with non-Christians because non-Christians do not have the life of Christ. They have not been spiritually reborn and,​​ subsequently, are in darkness.​​ The Apostle Paul said it this way​​ 


Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?​​ 2 Corinthians 6.14 (ESV)​​ 

6​​ Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.​​ 7​​ Therefore do not be partakers with them;​​ 8​​ for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light​​ 9​​ (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),​​ Eph.​​ 5:6-9​​ 

4​​ But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;​​ 5​​ for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;​​ 1 Thess.​​ 5:4-5​​ 


Nowhere in Scripture does​​ the Bible​​ talk about moving in and out of fellowship with God or one another. We were called out of​​ darkness​​ into God’s marvelous light and,​​ thus,​​ into fellowship with Jesus. Thankfully,​​ none of this is based on our behavior.


God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.​​ 1 Cor. 1:9​​ 

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;​​ 1 Pet. 2:9​​ 


V8-10​​ -​​  8​​ If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.​​ 9​​ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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.​​ 


V8 -​​ If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.​​ 


In​​ v8, John​​ makes another​​ conditional​​ hypothetical statement​​ ​​ If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.​​​​ This condition would undoubtedly apply to​​ false teachers,​​ such as the gnostics​​ who claimed​​ they did not sin.​​ 


In his second epistle, John states that the truth is in Christians and will be forever​​ (2 John 1:1-2);​​ therefore,​​ v8​​ does not address a Christian​​ (one who​​ has been spiritually reborn).


1​​ The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,​​ 2​​ for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:​​ 2 John​​ 1:1-2​​ 


V9 –​​ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


And now to one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible.​​ John​​ makes yet another​​ conditional​​ hypothetical statement -​​ ​​ if we confess our sins,​​ He​​ (God)​​ is​​ faithful and righteous to forgive​​ our sins​​ and cleanse us from​​ all​​ unrighteousness.


Question -​​ Do Christians need to be repeatedly forgiven and cleansed from ALL unrighteousness?​​ 

Answer –​​ No, we are forgiven of all past, present, and future sins. Jesus died once and for all to pay our sin debt and declare us​​ righteous.​​ See notes on​​ v7.

Note -​​ read the article​​ Completely Forgiven​​ on this website​​ for more​​ information.​​ 


Question -​​ Are Christians not already righteous?​​ 

Answer -​​ Yes, they are (I’m not talking about our behavior, but rather, our identity in Christ)!


For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.​​ Romans 5:17​​ 

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.​​ Romans 5:18-19​​ 

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.​​ 2 Cor.​​ 5:21



Question​​ ​​ If this verse is​​ for unbelievers, is​​ it​​ the​​ confession of sin​​ that provides for forgiveness of sin?​​ 

Answer​​ ​​ No.​​ Only the blood/death of Jesus​​ provides for forgiveness of sin.​​ 


 And according to the Law,​​ one may​​ almost​​ say,​​ all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.​​ Hebrews 9:22 (NASB)​​ 



Question -Then,​​ who was John addressing?​​ 

Answer -​​ He was most certainly addressing those who believed they did not sin. John was addressing this primary obstacle (the lie they were believing) that kept them from receiving the life of Christ and thus, having fellowship with God,​​ His son Jesus, and all other believers.​​ 

He was encouraging this group of unbelievers​​ to​​ confess​​ they had sinned. If​​ a person​​ does not first​​ believe​​ they have sinned, they will surely not see their need for a savior.


Note -​​ “confess”-​​ means to speak the same; or to agree with. In this case, it means to agree with God about one’s sin.


Exposing the primary obstacle​​ (the lie someone is believing)​​ that keeps one from​​ trusting in​​ Jesus is not unusual in​​ Scripture. Let me remind you of two other instances when Jesus did the same thing.


First,​​ consider the story of what is often referred to as the story of the “Rich Young Ruler” in​​ Matthew 19. Upon asking Jesus what​​ good thing​​ (work)​​ he must do to​​ have​​ eternal life,​​ Jesus​​ told him he must keep the​​ commandments​​ (the Mosaic Law​​ being​​ the standard​​ for perfection​​ at that time).​​ He replied to Jesus that he kept them all and asked what else he lacked. Jesus, knowing the heart of the young man, then focused on his primary obstacle​​ (the lie he was believing)​​ that kept him from​​ coming to​​ Jesus​​ for eternal life​​ when he said,​​ 


If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.​​ (Mat.​​ 19:21)


What was​​ the rich young man’s​​ obstacle?​​ 

“But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”​​ (Mat.​​ 19:22)


The rich young man​​ trusted in​​ his great wealth​​ above all else.​​ The thought of​​ giving it away caused him great sorrow.​​ 


Question -​​ ​​ Is​​ selling all you have and giving it to the poor the way to eternal life?​​ 

Answer -​​ Of course not; that just happened to be the primary obstacle for the person to whom Jesus was speaking. Jesus​​ always​​ looked​​ upon the hearts of those​​ to whom He spoke​​ and​​ told them what​​ they needed.


We find another example​​ in​​ Luke chapter 10​​ where a certain lawyer,​​ attempting​​ to test Jesus, asks the same question as the rich young ruler: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?”​​ Jesus answered the question by asking, “What is written in the Law?” The lawyer answered​​ -​​ 




Jesus told him that his answer was correct and then said,​​ Do this and you will live”​​ (Luke 10:28)


Jesus knew that the lawyer prided himself on knowing and keeping the law.​​ The​​ lawyer, wanting to find a loophole (as all good lawyers will do), asked Jesus another question to justify his actions. He asked Jesus,​​ “And who is my​​ neighbor?”. Jesus knew that Jews hated Samaritans and would never consider them as their neighbor and,​​ thus, someone they should love.​​ 


Jesus, as he often did, answered the question with a story that has come to be known as the story of the “Good Samaritan.”​​ In​​ His story,​​ the Samaritan​​ showed love to the stranger he met on the road. Jesus made the point that our neighbor is anyone​​ who​​ crosses our path​​ with a need. This​​ story​​ likely troubled the Jewish lawyer,​​ who would never consider helping a Samaritan, for it was frowned upon for a Jew to associate with a Samaritan​​ (John 4:9). Once again, Jesus exposed the primary obstacle that prevented the lawyer from trusting in Christ. The lawyer had placed his faith in his ability to know and keep the law (self-righteousness). Jesus’ story revealed to the lawyer that his idea of keeping the law​​ differed​​ from​​ that of Jesus. The primary purpose of the story was not to present a pattern for Christian living but to demonstrate to the lawyer his​​ inability to truly keep God’s Law and,​​ therefore,​​ his​​ need for a savior.


I​​ was​​ taught all of my Christian life that if I sinned, I should confess it to God and ask for forgiveness so​​ He​​ would forgive me (although​​ 1 John 1:9​​ never says we are to ask for forgiveness). I did not question this.​​ But I would like to pose some questions for you to consider.


  • If Christians are to do this (confess their sins to be forgiven), why are there​​ no​​ other verses in the​​ Bible that mention it? Surely,​​ the Apostle Paul, writer of much of the New Testament, would have said something about our need to confess our​​ sins and ask for forgiveness, but he doesn’t! Never make a doctrine based on one verse of​​ Scripture.

  • Does anyone really confess all their sins? If you don’t confess them all, are you still forgiven?

  • Should we be​​ constantly​​ focused on our sins​​ to avoid forgetting​​ to confess one?​​ 

  • What does it mean to be out of fellowship with God?

  • How many sins does it take to cause one to move out of fellowship with God?

  • I’ve been told that it’s the habitual sins that cause us to lose fellowship with God.​​ So, how long must one struggle with a​​ particular​​ sin before it’s considered habitual?

  • What about those who struggle with gluttony their entire life? Are they out of fellowship?​​ How about unforgiveness and bitterness?

  • Would any of these sins cause a loss of fellowship - gossip, greed, lust, stretching the truth (lie), pride, covetousness, jealousy?

  • ​​ I’ve never read anywhere in the​​ Bible​​ precisely what happens when a Christian is “out of fellowship.”​​ Does God change toward us,​​ or is it us that changes toward God?

  • ​​ Does God stop loving us? Does he no longer hear and answer our prayers? Does he no longer accept us?

  • ​​ Does​​ God​​ punish us for these sins that cause a “loss of fellowship”?

  • ​​ What if we die while “out of fellowship”?

  • ​​ Can we do something in heaven to get back into fellowship?

  • ​​ How long​​ must we cease​​ our “habitual” sin before we are back in fellowship?

  • ​​ Do we also lose our salvation when we are “out of fellowship”?


How did you answer these questions?​​ If you are honest, you have​​ likely​​ never thought about most of them. I have never heard anyone who believes we can be "out of fellowship" with God address any of these questions.


Folks, the sin issue has been dealt with at the cross.​​ The wages of sin is death​​ (Rom. 6:23), not a loss of fellowship. The full payment for sin has been paid. We are completely forgiven of every sin we have ever committed or will ever commit​​ and, “therefore,​​ there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”.​​ (Rom. 8:1)


Our forgiveness has never been based on our behavior. When we were spiritually born-again, our identity was changed from “in Adam” to “in Christ”.​​ We are holy and righteous in Christ. So,​​ let me encourage you to​​ live like who you are – set your mind on things above and not on things of this world! When the Holy Spirit brings to attention your sin, agree with God​​ (confess), repent (change your thinking),​​ and move on.​​ Not so you can be forgiven or remain in fellowship, but because​​ you are already​​ forgiven and in everlasting fellowship.​​ Thank God​​ that He has​​ forgiven​​ you. He knows you​​ will​​ continue to sin as long as you are on planet​​ Earth (although you do have a choice​​ –​​ Rom. 6). Don’t dwell on your sin, but on Christ,​​ who has set you free from the power and the penalty of sin! And someday soon, we will be set free from the presence of sin. What a glorious day that will be!


5​​ and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and​​ released us from our sins by His blood—​​ 6​​ and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.​​ Rev. 1:4-6


V10​​ ​​ If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.​​ 

This verse is similar to​​ v8​​ (see the discussion on​​ v8). Again, this verse seems to​​ address​​ the​​ false teachers who believed​​ they did​​ not sin. But this time, the verse says that​​ if we say we​​ have​​ not sinned, we make God a liar and His word is not in us.​​ 


God’s word is truth.​​ 

Jesus is the word.​​ 

Jesus is the truth.

Jesus is in us.

We are in​​ Jesus​​ forever. Amen!

Consider​​ -​​ John 1:1, 14, 14:6, 17:17; Col. 1:27


In Conclusion​​ 


Folks, let me encourage you to read, study,​​ and pray about what the scriptures say. The traditions of man are taught regularly in church meetings,​​ in​​ books,​​ and on websites.​​ Read for yourself and ask God to open your eyes to the truth of​​ His written word.​​ And remember,​​ our fellowship with God​​ and complete​​ forgiveness​​ is NOT based on our behavior (what a relief).


Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.​​ Acts 17:11




1.​​ The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty;​​ Hodges, Zane

2.​​ Holman Bible Dictionary

3.​​ Principles of Exchanged Life Counseling;​​ Laird, Carol

4.​​ Wuest's Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament

5.​​ Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words

6.​​ Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary